The Asylum

John Harwood, Author
John Harwood. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-544-00347-7
Reviewed on: 03/18/2013
Release date: 05/21/2013
As he did in The Ghost Writer and The Séance, Australian author Harwood evokes Charles Palliser and Louis Bayard in his engrossing third stand-alone Victorian thriller. In the first sentence, Georgina Ferrars declares, “I woke, as it seemed, from a nightmare of being stretched on the rack, only to sink into another dream in which I was lying on a strange bed, afraid to open my eyes for fear of what I might see.” Alas, Georgina finds herself in a Cornwall asylum, whose sinister director, Dr. Maynard Straker, tells her that she arrived the previous day, November 1, 1882, and identified herself as 21-year-old Lucy Ashton. With no memory of the previous six weeks, Georgina is hard-pressed to refute Straker. Only gradually do the events that led to her confinement become clear. The crisp prose and twisty plot will encourage many to read this in one sitting, though the ending won’t satisfy everyone. Agent: Kathleen Anderson, Anderson Literary Management. (May)