Paperbacks: The Mesmerist, by Barbara Ewing

Mesmerism was all the rage in 19th-century London, and in her fourth novel Barbara Ewing imagines life for a female practitioner in this very male world.

Cordelia Preston is an ageing actress who, fed up with being typecast as an old crone, sets up shop as a hypnotist in a Bloomsbury basement. A natural at the art of suggestion, she’s at the height of her powers when she is implicated in a series of unsolved murders. A compelling storyteller, Ewing puts on a masterly performance in recreating Victorian theatreland. Even when the body count starts to mount, she keeps us believing in an increasingly unlikely train of events.