“A mysterious keepsake, a murdered bride, a legacy of secrets…
One balmy June evening in 1881, Phoebe Stanbury stands before the guests at her engagement party: this is her moment, when she will join the renowned Raycraft family and ascend to polite society.
As she takes her fiancé’s hand, a stranger brandishing a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl’s life. Amid the tumult, he turns to her aristocratic groom and mouths: ‘I promised I would save you.’
The following morning, just a few miles away, timid young legal clerk William Lamb meets a reclusive client, whom he was never meant to meet. He finds the old man terrified and in desperate need of aid: William must keep safe a small casket of yellowing papers, and deliver an enigmatic message: The Finder knows.”
Having read the blurb of The Fourteenth Letter I just knew that I had to read Claire Evans’s debut. I do enjoy the odd foray into historical crime, I used to read a lot more than I do now and maybe that’s something I need to address. So to say I was tempted by this title was an understatement.
If you are anything like me, you’ve read the blurb and found it appealing. However, this book has so much more to offer than the simple synopsis above. So much more which I really wasn’t ready for. The depth of this story surprised me; it took me places I wasn’t expecting to go and it’s a whole lot darker than it first seems.
I was transported to London in the early 1880s. The sights, the smells, the dastardly deviants and street urchins; all of which Evans paints so clearly for her reader. And there I found a character I will not forget for some time, the sublime Savannah Shelton. I may have fallen a little bit in love with the feisty American. With an appearance which makes her stand out from the crowd, Savannah Shelton was a vision in petticoats, shockingly exposing her ankles for all to see. A gun-toting, kick-ass woman wanted for murder in the US but with a heart of gold and a desire to protect our somewhat hapless protagonist, William Lamb (it helped he was paying her!).
The author has created a cast of wonderful, eccentric characters all of whom I hope will remain with me for a while. I grew to like and admire William Lamb as the story progressed. I found his naivety both charming and a little irksome to start with; a strange mix! But I watched as, throughout the pages, he transformed from a lamb to man who would sacrifice himself for what he believed in. There are many other outstanding characters present in this novel for our delectation. Special mention to DI Harry Treadway who, despite past errors, I was really rooting for. I particularly enjoyed it when Treadway’s investigation collided head-on with Savannah and William’s own personal search for answers.
Would I recommend this book? I would. This is a multi-layered tale of misguided belief and the search for perfection. Believe me when I say you will get an awful lot more than you bargained for in picking up a copy of The Fourteenth Letter. What looks on the outside like an innocuous search to solve the mystery of one woman’s killer will, in its depths, both alarm and entertain you.
Four out of five stars.
I chose to read and review an ARC of The Fourteenth Letter. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans was published in the UK by Sphere (Little,Brown Group) on 21st September 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |
Claire Evans is an established business specialist in the UK television industry. After finishing her law degree, she qualified as an accountant, but realising her mistake quickly ran away to work at the National Theatre before finally landing a job at the BBC. Once there, she rose through the ranks to head up operations and business affairs across the TV commissioning teams. In drama, she led the BBC’s commercial relationships with the Independent production sector and a wide range of international co-producers and distributors.
She left the BBC in 2013 to pursue her writing career. Since then she has advised a number of drama and film production companies, most recently working on The Honourable Woman and Doctor Foster. She is also now the Chief Operating Officer at Two Brothers Pictures Ltd, the company set up by Harry and Jack Williams, the creators of The Missing.
Author Links: | Twitter |