Working as a philologist, an expert in a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics, Percival Endicott Whyborne is a brilliant, shy, defensive man living a lonely life while employed at the Ladysmith Museum in the old city of Widdershins, Massachusetts. It's 1897 and he could be arrested and incarcerated for his "inclinations." So Whyborne keeps to himself, immersed in his work and mourning his long lost cousin, Leander.
Enter Griffin Flaherty, a one-time Pinkerton agent, who immediately sparks Whyborne's interest, but he rigidly represses his feelings--Whyborne is a frightened man, estranged from his wealthy, powerful family and he emphatically does not need a handsome ex-Pinkerton agent rocking his metaphorical boat.
But Griffin has something he needs help with--an old book encrypted with unknowable words and symbols--and he has come to the Ladysmith museum seeking Whyborne's expertise. Whyborne at first resists; he is too busy, his secret attraction to and fear of what Griffin's worldliness represents makes him outwardly haughty and resistant to him. Griffin, however, is persistent and charming, gradually seducing Whyborne to the adventure of solving a mystery as well as acting on their attraction.
What I really enjoyed about this story (and I'm not a fan of horror) was the developing romance and partnership of these two unlikely men: one prim and shy, the other outwardly bold and sure of himself who work together to solve a dreadful, terrifying and very gory mystery, involving a secret cabal of powerful and wealthy men.
As Griffin and(don't call me Percy)Whyborne work together to investigate the crime, each reveals hidden strengths and weaknesses that are complementary and unexpected. As the attraction between them slowly grows and becomes stronger and more passionate, Griffin and Whyborne are thrust into the midst of the madness and peril of the Brotherhood's evil plans and not only can they not reveal their own relationship, it is threatened by secrets kept and misunderstood.
I thought the author did a great job of developing Griffin and Whyborne's characters and letting their relationship grow gently; and the development of the Brotherhood's grand plan gave the story an edge of the chair urgency and poignancy that worked pretty well. There were a few anachronistic concepts and words, but they weren't too jarring and the sex was sweetly erotic and well done.
Well written, with an Annie Oakley-type female archaeologist side-kick who works with Whyborne at the museum, (she needs her own book!) good dialogue and characterization, I am nonetheless giving the book four stars, because some of the conflict with the stock characters was not as imaginatively resolved as I would have liked, and it would have been great to have employed the mysteries of the museum a little more--maybe a future book will do so, because it seems pretty clear that Griffin and Whyborne will be continuing their partnership, for which I am grateful because I do love detecting duos in series. When Josh Lanyon finally and inevitably ended the Adrien English series, I nearly held a wake. So I'm glad to see more authors follow this never-ending, but popular trope.