She said of her writing, "My works seem to me to fall into two classes: the one of incident . . . and the one of character, with the minimum of story. I like to analyze a character ‘to death,’ so to speak, and I look on my stories of this sort as the best I have written." But she also recognized the need to sell books in popular genres like romances, horror, and thrillers, although it evidently wasn't always a comfortable arrangement, as she remarked: "Every now and then I feel the necessity of escaping from the trammels imposed by publishers, editors and the supposed taste of the public. I want to say my own say, to express what I really mean, and feel, to deliver my soul."
Her novel The Great Mill Street Mystery, from 1890, combines elements of character and psychological suspense, beginning with the prologue where a blind clergyman and a crippled boy stumble across a murder in the dilapidated Mill Street neighborhood of London, a "God-forsaken place." The boy led the clergyman there because the parson believed his old friend George Eastwood was involved in a vengeful love triangle with the boy's brother, Stephen Eyre. The prologue ends with the woman in the middle of the drama, Jess Armstrong, turning herself in as the murderer. But was she really guilty?
The rest of the novel unfolds in a flashback that tells the tale of Eastwood, Eyre and Armstrong and how the threads of obsession, jealousy, and religious fanatacism are woven together into a painful fabric of deception and misunderstandings that ultimately lead to tragedy. The theme of the status of women, or lack thereof, (the author was a firm believer in women's suffrage) and the honest depiction of callous class morés in 19th-century Britain is strong. Strong enough that one scandalized fussbudget reviewer in the London Table Talk wrote, "An East London Mystery by Adeline Sergeant, ran through the newspapers as The Great Mill Mystery. It is not a good sample of the author's work, being a sordid story of seduction, satiety, cruelty, and murder. The mystery scarcely deserves its name."
Although Sargent's works are very difficult to find in reprints, save for a few of the public-domain book mills dumping thousands of older books into digital form, several are available via Project Gutenberg, and The Great Mill Street Mystery is free via Google Books.