To be clear, this is not a book about Martians, or even girls. The central character is a woman in her late thirties, Jean Beckett, a writer who lives in today’s London. She is writing a one-woman play — later it becomes a novel — about a young woman named Kate French who lived in London a century earlier, and performed on stage as “The Martian Girl”. There are clear parallels in the lives of the two women, particularly in the men who are central to those lives and who turn out to be (no spoilers here) real jerks. This is a brilliant novel, with well-drawn characters, and an acute knowledge of London now and as it was at the end of the 19th century. It’s about writing, and research, and deception, and fear and love. Andrew Martin is an accomplished writer of historical mysteries, but this is the first of his that I’ve read. It will not be the last.