Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 1st February 2018
I saw so many people posting beautiful pictures of stunning velvety proofs of this book and immediately got book envy. Like real desperation level envy. So I was absolutely thrilled to be approved to review this via Netgalley. Alright, alright I would’ve luh-huvved an actual proof but I’ll take a great book in whatever form I can. And this book is great. Like super great.
For a kick off it’s Georgian, it’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s grim. Tick, tick, tick and massive tick.
We meet our protagonist Hester White who having been previously fairly well off and well educated finds herself falling on extremely hard time after the deaths of her parents. She is forced to live with their gardener Jacob and his wife Meg (whom Hester calls ‘Auntie’ and ‘Uncle’.
Desperate to make a better life for herself she heads out one day to meet her cousin who she believes is the key to a better life. On the way she is run over by the horse and cart of a doctor and injured quite badly. The doctor Calder Brock takes Hester in and treats her wounds and nurses her back to health. He takes Hester to his family home in the country and tasks his austere sister Rebekah with educating Hester as kind of a social experiment of sorts to determine whether the downtrodden and destitute can indeed be educated.
The two women form a strong and unique bond after a slightly rocky start and are bonded further by the fact that people have started to go missing with no warning and leaving very few clues. The victims are of all age groups and both sexes and all appear to be from poor backgrounds.
Rebekah having lost two of her maids this way has a vested interest in finding out what on earth is happening to these people. Hester’s cousin seems likely to have disappeared in this way too, having failed to show up and meet her on the day of the accident.
The two women find themselves embroiled in a murky underworld on the streets of London, trying to fathom out the mystery and keep their wits about them.
I found this a little hard to get into at first but this was not the books fault, it was mine. I was so eager to read it that I started it at a point when I was really too busy to become absorbed and promptly put it back down again. A definite case of right book wrong time. However, once I put aside some time I flew through it.
It put me in mind of Sarah Waters writing and had a definite Fingersmith vibe going on. It was very atmospheric and the author transports you back in time to that era in history and you almost feel as if you’re there, experiencing the sights and sounds (most of them unpleasant!).
I must admit that I didn’t see the ending coming and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was happening to all those people who had gone missing. Columbo I ain’t! I love that I was kept guessing. And the reveal when it came was fascinating.
If you love a good mystery, and are a fan of the historical then you need to get your grubby mitts on this ASAP! (Well not grubby, you might ruin the velvet)……
See you soon.
Bookish Chat xxxx