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Summer Of Secrets – Nikola Scott

Published September 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Nikola Scott’s heart-breaking and unforgettable new novel tells the story of two women linked by a dark secret, in 1939 and the modern day. Not to be missed by readers of Dinah Jefferies and Kate Morton.

1939. Madeleine, an orphaned young woman, fears that life at her beautiful family home Summerhill will change for ever when her adored sister Georgina returns from London with a handsome and charming fiancé. Maddie fears that the man Georgina loves is not all he seems. And even idyllic Cornwall is falling under the shadow of war…

Today. Chloe is newly pregnant. This should be a joyful time, but she is fearful for the future despite her husband’s devotion. When her work takes her to Summerhill, she’s drawn into the mystery of what happened there decades before. And the past reaches out to touch her in ways that could change everything…

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Becky Hunter and the team at Headline publishers for providing a lovely surprise on my return home from work one day to find Nikola Scott’s second novel, Summer Of Secrets on my doormat. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s debut, My Mother’s Shadow and was delighted to be able to dive into a new half historical/half contemporary fiction from Nikola sooner than I could have anticipated. Also, happy publication day as the novel is published today, the 6th September 2018 so you can get your mitts on it RIGHT NOW! For me, if I love an author’s debut, I’m always slightly nervous about reading their follow-up. Would I enjoy it? Can I see myself becoming a fan of her work and look forward to whatever she writes? Well, yes, yes and YES on all counts here, I’m thrilled to report. Nikola Scott has a real gift for writing sumptuous, atmospheric fiction that has the heady advantage of pulling you into her world immediately, keeping you captivated throughout and making it very difficult for you to want to let go by the end.

Nikola Scott, author of Summer Of Secrets.

Like My Mother’s Shadow, Summer Of Secrets uses one of my favourite ways to create a narrative – a dual timeline and two endearing and compelling female leads in each separate time period. In contemporary times we follow Chloe, who has just recently found out she is pregnant but has misgivings for both her future and the future of her unborn child. Having previously worked as a photographer prior to getting married, she is sent to the old country estate of Summerhill to meet a person she has idolised since childhood. This person is Madeleine, whom we hear from in the alternate timeline, set just prior to the war in 1939. A talented artist, Maddy is awaiting the return of her older sister, Georgiana who has been away for a little while but when she returns she brings someone into their lives, her new beau Victor, who turns everything upside down.

The sisters have learned to be self-sufficient from a young age after tragically losing their mother and father but it has made them intensely vulnerable in very different ways and we start to see evidence of this as the story continues. However, back in the present time, how does Chloe’s story connect with that of Madeleine, Georgiana and Victor? Can both women use the links and the similarities between their lives to help themselves (and each other) in their current situation? Or are they both too terrified of the potential consequences to open up and let the other one in?

Although Summerhill itself is fictional, the story is set in beautiful Cornwall, South-West England. 

Curling up with Summer Of Secrets was like having a cup of tea with your oldest friend. Sounds comforting, right? Now imagine your friend brought some snacks along and they are slightly spicy but you weren’t expecting it? That’s what the reading experience felt like to me. The story flowed along languidly and effortlessly and, quite unusually for me, I adored both the historical and the contemporary part of the narrative. This was a surprise as I was expecting to favour the historical side of the story and I can only credit Nikola’s character creation with this sudden change in my normal habits! She has written two utterly fantastic female protagonists that I instantly fell in love with, wanted to root for from the beginning and was genuinely interested in their welfare, particularly when we learn of the harrowing things they have been through in their individual histories.

However, what really pulled me into this novel was the smidge of darkness the author placed delicately and subtly at first into each woman’s story but then became such an integral part of the narrative that it did make for tough, uncomfortable moments at points, particularly as I personally identified with certain parts. I think the personal connection that I developed, especially with Chloe, made me further invested in the novel as a whole, willing her on from behind the pages, determined that she should find happiness. My partner will also attest to the fact that I exclaimed a few “choice words” out loud by the end of the novel (which amused him greatly!) as I found myself completely engrossed, forgetting where and who I was with.

I’m overjoyed to have been given the opportunity to read a review copy of Summer Of Secrets by Nikola Scott and even happier to announce that it exceeded all my wildest expectations for her second novel. I’ll just wait here quietly, eagerly anticipating her third!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Come And Find Me (DI Marnie Rome #5) – Sarah Hilary

Published March 29, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Gripping, tense, twisty and full of emotional insight, COME AND FIND ME is Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome 5 book, for fans of Mick Herron or Clare Mackintosh. 

‘Hilary belts out a corker of a story, all wrapped up in her vivid, effortless prose. If you’re not reading this series of London-set police procedurals then you need to start right away’ Observer

On the surface, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull have nothing in common, other than their infatuation with Michael Vokey. Each is writing to a sadistic inmate, sharing her secrets, whispering her worst fears, craving his attention.

DI Marnie Rome understands obsession. She’s finding it hard to give up her own addiction to a dangerous man: her foster brother, Stephen Keele. She wasn’t able to save her parents from Stephen. She lives with that guilt every day.

As the hunt for Vokey gathers pace, Marnie fears one of the women may have found him – and is about to pay the ultimate price.

What did I think?:

I cannot stress enough how wonderful Sarah Hilary’s DI Marnie Rome series is and urge you all to start reading it if you’re not already obsessed like I clearly seem to be! Generally speaking, I usually begin crime series quite excited, determined to read all the books the author releases and then – something happens. It falls by the wayside, I read an “okay,” book in the series and sadly, my enthusiasm wanes and I either forget about the series or resolve that it’s no longer for me. However, the Marnie Rome series is one of the very few set of books where each story seems to get better and better and when I hear that one is due to be released, I’m gleefully anticipating it and genuinely leap-frogging it over other books in my TBR just so I can read it even sooner. Therefore, a HUGE thank you to Jenny Harlow and all at Headline Books for granting my wish and providing me with a copy of Come And Find Me in exchange for an honest review. I think you can already guess (and apologies for the awful gushing!) but all my expectations for the fifth book in the Marnie Rome series were exceeded, dramatically so. In fact, I’m beginning to think it impossible that Sarah Hilary could ever write a bad book and both her plot-lines and characters become more intricate and infinitely more wonderful than I ever could have expected.

Unlike other books in different series, I feel like I can talk about Come And Find Me quite easily without ruining too much for anyone who has never read any Sarah Hilary before. I’ll attempt to explain myself – you know in other series where there’s a bit of a re-cap of previous situations and if you’re reading the series out of order, it can possibly ruin things slightly if you haven’t realised? I really don’t feel like this is the case with this fifth novel. Sure, we get some slight references to events that have happened both in Marnie’s and other characters pasts but it’s all a little vague and not too detailed so if you did happen to come to this novel first, it could easily be read as a stand-alone and you wouldn’t face huge amounts of spoilers. Obviously, I would definitely advocate reading the first book in this series before any others as you get a much better idea of the personalities of our main protagonists and certainly, their back stories that has led to current events BUT I do like the way Sarah Hilary doesn’t spend oodles of time re-hashing past events.

In Come And Find Me, Marnie and her team are investigating a jail break and the disappearance of a dangerous prisoner, Michael Vokey. As he escaped from the prison, there was an almighty riot  and horrific fire which ended up with some men dead and five others including Michael’s cell-mate, Ted Elms and Marnie’s foster brother, Stephen Keele critically ill in hospital. As Marnie and her side-kick Noah desperately try to find Michael, fearing he might hurt someone else, they find letters from two women, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull who had not only been writing to him on a regular basis, but seemed to have got slightly obsessed. The letters include photographs, have quite shocking content on occasion and make Marnie wonder if one/both of them could be aiding him or hiding him from the authorities. We hear from both Marnie and Noah as they struggle to crack the case and from Ted Elms as he lies in a coma in hospital and it is not long before the revelations of what happened the day of the riot are much more surprising and unexpected than previously believed.

I adore this series. As I alluded to before, Sarah Hilary can do no wrong and with each book she knocks it out of the park in terms of plot and character development. Of course, there are inevitable twists that you think as a reader, you might have figured out but she still manages to turn things round and bring in that unpredictable element that you never see coming. I probably mentioned in my previous reviews but Marnie and Noah are amongst my favourite characters in fiction, I really feel like I know them and admire how with each novel, the author seems to take them to the next level. This book wasn’t so much about Marnie’s struggles with her foster brother Stephen, although it was obviously mentioned as he was a patient in the hospital after the prison riot, but I quite enjoyed that we got to see a side of Marnie where she wasn’t constantly caught up in the misery of her parents deaths. Saying that, I am rubbing my hands in anticipation of what’s to come for both Marnie and Noah, especially after THAT cliffhanger. Finally, I just want to mention the writing which I have always enjoyed in the previous novels but in Come And Find Me, it was if I noticed it for the very first time. Some of the lines of this narrative were so gorgeously poetic it was a pleasure to read and brought a whole new dimension to a story I was already enjoying but ended up admiring and respecting purely for the way in which Sarah Hilary was using her words.

If you haven’t read any of the Marnie Rome series before, you’re in for such a treat. I almost wish I could go back and experience them all again, knowing nothing, right from the beginning.

Someone Else’s Skin (DI Marnie Rome #1)

No Other Darkness (DI Marnie Rome #2)

Tastes Like Fear (DI Marnie Rome #3)

Quieter Than Killing (DI Marnie Rome #4)

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

Published March 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The New York Times Top Ten Bestseller

The Immortalists is about as good as it gets’ Karen Joy Fowler

‘Like literary nectar’ Hannah Beckerman

‘I couldn’t put it down’ Carys Bray

It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they’re about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.

Over the years that follow, the siblings must choose how to live with the prophecies the fortune-teller gave them that day. Will they accept, ignore, cheat or defy them? Golden-boy Simon escapes to San Francisco, searching for love; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician; eldest son Daniel tries to control fate as an army doctor after 9/11; and bookish Varya looks to science for the answers she craves.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists is a story about how we live, how we die, and what we do with the time we have.

What did I think?:

It is a truth universally acknowledged (well, by me for certain!) that Tinder Press have been publishing some fantastic novels recently and I can always guarantee when I read a book by this publisher that I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it. Thank you so much to Caitlin Raynor and Tinder Press for sending this wonderful surprise my way late last year in exchange for an honest review and as expected, I completely adored it. The proof copy I was sent was brilliantly simple with just two sentences on the front and back of the book respectively. The front cover said: “How would you live your life if you knew the day you were going to die?” and the back cover said: “New York, 1969. Four siblings, too young for what they are about to hear, seek out their fortunes.” Well, the marketing was pure perfection as this was all that was needed to hook me in and made me unbelievably excited to learn the stories of our four protagonists.

Oh my goodness and what stories they are! The Immortalists is a delightfully slow-paced and beautifully detailed look at each sibling and how learning the date of their death changes the way they might live their lives as a result. We have Varya, the eldest and most sensible, her brother Daniel who becomes a doctor for the military, Klara who becomes a magician in San Francisco and lives with the youngest sibling, Simon who trains as a dancer in the same city. As I mentioned, the date that each sibling is given affects them all in different ways and perhaps encourages them to make different or riskier life decisions that they might have normally. Klara and Simon are the risk-takers of the family and run off together to make a new life where they can both be happy away from the sometimes constraining nature of their Jewish family but unfortunately, their own personal demons do return to haunt them. Meanwhile, Daniel and Varya remain at home to look after their sensitive mother and are more wary about making choices that could affect the quality/length of their lives. It is Varya however who has arguably the most interesting job and reaction to the prophecy, as a research scientist investigating what levels you can go to to extend the human life span.

This novel took me on the most amazing journey that I never wanted to end. We follow each sibling in turn from the late sixties until the present day as each of them reaches the day that they are expected to die, according to the fortune teller. We learn about all their hopes and dreams, all their worries and especially, the struggles and trials that they face as they each reach adulthood and are confronted with the inevitable spectre of Death. It covers so many different themes, like the bonds between families, religion, homosexuality, mental illness and of course, life and death. It’s rare to read a novel where you connect with every single one of the characters but for me, this is exactly how I felt, I loved them all for very different reasons and cried and laughed with them at each struggle and triumph.

Every era of time that is captured, from the easy, open environment of San Francisco to New York in the age of modern technology is drawn fantastically, with so much atmosphere and intricate detail that you can almost imagine yourself by the side of each sibling, experiencing exactly what they do in each moment. Chloe Benjamin has created something truly magical with The Immortalists with characters that have touched my heart, many of whom made me so emotional regarding the direction that their lives ended up and the choices that they made. It really made me think (and I’d love to discuss with you in the comments below), if you had the opportunity to know the date you were going to die, would you want to know? If yes/no, why? Let me know!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin was the eighteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Coffin Path – Katherine Clements

Published February 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’t it all about?:

The Coffin Path is an eerie and compelling seventeenth-century ghost story set on the dark wilds of the Yorkshire moors. For fans of Michelle Paver and Sarah Waters, this gothic tale will weave its way into your imagination and chill you to the bone.

Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.

Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.

When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Headline publishers and Caitlin Raynor for allowing me to read a copy of this eerie, fascinating novel, set on the Yorkshire moors in the seventeenth century via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I love a good ghost story but haven’t read one in quite some time and definitely haven’t read one that gripped me as much as the story of Mercy Booth and her moors filled with sheep did. It’s an incredibly atmospheric novel and I could visualise the moors that Mercy lives on and the sheep that are in her care in full, glorious detail. The house that she lives in with her father and housekeeper becomes almost a character unto itself with the number of secrets it keeps and the strange noises that have started to emanate from a locked bedroom within the house, terrifying residents and visitors alike.

Our story begins with Mercy tearing out into the inclement weather to assist a ewe who is struggling to give birth to her lamb (more on this scene later) and from there we learn about Mercy’s life, an independent young woman who has taken most of the work of looking after her family’s flock from her father as his health, strength and mind begins to fail. She is determined, strong and fiercely loyal to her family’s business and probably knows as much or indeed more about looking after sheep than her head shepherd does. The novel follows her life as they take on a mysterious new worker, stranger to the town Ellis Ferreby, the family start to discover a number of mutilated sheep on the premises, precious things of her father’s go missing and there are aforementioned curious noises from the bedroom where a young boy once died. Meanwhile, all residents at the property are starting to get an odd sense that someone is watching them and wishes them ill. For what purpose? All will be revealed but the journey to get there might make you want to turn the lights back on if you’re reading this just before bed.

This novel has one of the most brutal and graphic beginnings I’ve ever read and although it doesn’t set the tone for what the rest of the book is going to be like (i.e. not so graphic) I’d seriously go into it with your stomach well fortified! Our main character, Mercy is birthing a lamb and in full, gory detail the process is described to the reader as Mercy struggles to save both the newborn and its mother. I’m lucky enough to have quite a strong stomach (must be the huge volume of horror tomes I’ve read in the past?), and as soon as I read this opening chapter I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Not so much for the content I hasten to add, but for the writing style, the setting and how Katherine Clements pulls you into Mercy’s world effortlessly, where not only can you visualise everything around her but you’re fighting her corner completely and hoping that she manages to save the animals from certain death.

The Coffin Path is very much a book that illustrates the sign of the times where poverty, superstition, rumours of witchcraft and fear of religion – that is to say, what would happen if you didn’t attend church are rife. The author portrays these attitudes and worries perfectly and it’s a fine historical account of what it might be like to live in England in these frightening times. Speaking of frightening, there’s passages of this narrative that I think will stay with me for a long time yet, it was incredibly creepy and disconcerting and there’s a particular fire screen that I don’t think I will ever forget! I loved the whole gothic nature of Mercy’s story and not only was her character written to perfection, instantly making me root for her but she was flawed, vulnerable and undeniably human which I adored. I’m not going to talk about the ending too much but let me just say, if you like being shocked you’re in for a treat here. Unfortunately, I kind of guessed parts of the “big reveal,” but luckily, not everything surrounding it and it was a fantastic way to finish off an engrossing and thrilling novel.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements was the eleventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Before This Is Over – Amanda Hickie

Published November 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How far will a mother go to save her children? A twisting, edge-of-your seat drama that you’ll never forget.

BEFORE THIS IS OVER by Amanda Hickie is a powerful, thought-provoking drama that looks at one family in the heart of a devastated community and compels us to ask: how far would I go to save my children? ‘Shatteringly suspenseful…it’s impossible not to be super-glued to the page’ Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of PICTURES OF YOU

A normal family. A quiet, leafy street. A terrifying epidemic.

It’s been coming for a while: a lethal illness. With sons of five and fourteen to look out for, Hannah has been stockpiling supplies, despite everyone telling her that it’s unnecessary.

Then it arrives.

At first there are a few unconfirmed cases. Then a death. Now the whole city is quarantined. But Hannah’s family is not yet safe behind their locked front door…

Basics soon become luxuries, and neighbours become hazards. There are power cuts, food shortages and an ever-growing sense of claustrophobia. How will the family cope?

How would you cope?

How far would you go to protect your children? 

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Headline publishers for reaching out and asking me if I’d like to read a copy of this novel, originally published in Australia under the title An Ordinary Epidemic in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I had to have it. I love stories similar in vein to Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or an old classic, The Stand by Stephen King where a catastrophic world event explores how people in the modern day would cope. By and large, Before This Is Over fulfils all the briefs required of this type of novel – it’s entirely believable and it shows the extremes that people will go to when placed under extreme pressure if the lives of their loved ones are at risk.

The deadly event that I mentioned in this novel is in fact a virus (known as Manba), very similar in symptoms to our ordinary flu virus but fatal to the vulnerable (in particular the very old or the very young). However, this virus does not like to discriminate and spreads astronomically around the globe from the first reported cases across the other side of the world in Manchester, England to thousands of people becoming infected and succumbing to death on a daily basis in Sydney where our story is set. We follow one family, Hannah and Sean and their two boys, teenager Zac and five year old Oscar as the virus switches from being a background worry to a very real and terrifying presence in their lives. Industrious Hannah gives in to her extreme paranoia and has already started stock-piling foods in her pantry so they are quite well prepared when the family ends up barricaded within their own home. Before This Is Over follows the family over a period of seven weeks as their food supply dwindles, the water and electricity is turned off and they end up with a very tenuous connection to the outside world, struggling to survive.

As a survival story, this is a brilliant, realistic portrayal of how our contemporary life can be easily threatened with the removal of merely a few home comforts, many of the things that we take completely for granted. For example, a regular varied food supply, mobile phones and the ability to charge them, fresh water, a working fridge and the means to cook our meals and of course, our source of endless information and connection to others – the Internet. It made you think about how you would cope if you were placed in a similar situation and the thought of having to manage without basic necessities such as toilet paper is quite frankly, terrifying for me! If I’m being completely honest, I have to agree with a few other reviews I’ve seen and mention that I found some of the characters supremely irritating. I didn’t agree with a lot of the choices that Hannah and Sean made for their family and I found Hannah especially quite grating at times to read about, particularly in her attitude and lack of compassion to those around her that weren’t her immediate family. However, who knows how we would all individually react if we were placed in that situation and surely we would want to protect our own? I’m not sure….I’d love to know if anyone felt the same way. Apart from that minor niggle, this is a fascinating look at how one small family unit cope with such a frightening, life-altering event and I’m very glad I read it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

My Mother’s Shadow – Nikola Scott

Published September 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It is the year 1958 and Elizabeth Holloway has been sent away from her London home to spend the summer at Hartland, a beautiful, rambling country estate by the Sussex coast. To lovely, innocent Elizabeth, the Shaws are the height of sophistication and they treat her as one of their own, but when she falls in love, no one warns her that her dreams are dangerously naïve.

Forty years later, Elizabeth’s daughter Addie finds a stranger on her doorstep, a woman claiming to be her twin sister. At first, Addie refuses to believe it — until her beloved father admits that the circumstances surrounding her birth were not what she’d been led to believe.

The discovery challenges everything Addie thought she knew about the brilliant, difficult woman that was her mother. And as their journey takes them back to Elizabeth’s past, Addie and her new sister Phoebe uncover the extraordinary story of a lost child, a mother’s secret, and one golden summer that changed a woman’s life forever.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Becky Hunter and the team at Headline for sending me a copy of this fantastic debut novel by Nikola Scott in exchange for an honest review. My Mother’s Shadow is a cosy and compelling read that I found myself instantly intrigued by and it was easy to race through it as I became determined to discover the root of the mystery which also provided a very satisfying conclusion. I’m also a huge fan of a dual timeline and was delighted to realise that I enjoyed the narrative set in the present day just as much as the story set in the 1950’s (usually it’s the opposite way around for me!).

The novel follows our main character Addie in the present time and her mother, Elizabeth Holloway when she was a young adult in the fifties. It comes as quite a shock to Addie exactly one year after her mother’s death to find a stranger on her doorstep claiming to be her long lost twin sister. At first, it’s inconceivable to Addie and her family that this woman, Phoebe is telling the truth although the evidence she provides is highly stacked in her favour. When it turns out that Phoebe might actually be who she says she is, the two girls join forces to uncover the secrets behind their birth. As Addie had quite a tumultuous relationship with her mother, the details of what they find are incredibly eye opening, moving and surprising and makes her look at her late mother in a whole different light.

I was so happy when this book turned up on my doormat – I was just in the right sort of mood for a novel such as this, something which was gripping, poignant and heart-warming all at the same time. The author has an obvious gift for creating characters that you immediately become fond of, especially the two main characters of Addie and her mother, Elizabeth. As I mentioned, I loved the dual timelines and I felt each characters story was captured to perfection, in a way that always made me want to read just “one more chapter.” My Mother’s Shadow is a beautiful combination of historical and contemporary fiction with a slice of mystery on the side and I loved attempting to unravel what had happened to Elizabeth in her past that led to two estranged twin sisters, multiple secrets and a bucket load of questions. It’s the ideal book to cuddle up with if you like a bit of a puzzle to solve and I’m really looking forward to what this author writes next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The Wages Of Sin – Kaite Welsh

Published August 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh’s medical school in 1882, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

An irresistible read with a fantastic heroine, beautifully drawn setting, fascinating insights into what it was like to study medicine as a woman at that time, The Wages of Sin is a stunning debut that heralds a striking new voice in historical fiction.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Tinder Press for approving my request on NetGalley to read this extraordinary novel in exchange for an honest review. I saw Wages of Sin initially on Twitter and it ticked all the boxes for me as a reader. It’s a work of historical fiction (tick), set in Edinburgh (tick) in the Victorian era (tick) that involves a strong female lead character (tick) dealing with a mysterious murder (tick). With so much going for it, there is always the anticipation that it might not be as great as it sounds but luckily I had no worries at all on that account. This book was a fantastic and thrilling debut novel and a truly fascinating look into women in science at a time when it was slightly frowned upon in an arrogantly patriarchal society.

Our main character is Sarah Gilchrist, a highly intelligent woman who dreams of being a doctor but has to leave London after a scandal threatens her standing in the world. She becomes a medical student in Edinburgh and has to struggle on a daily basis with not only the derision of the male students but also the attitudes of her fellow women scholars who become suspicious of her past. Sarah works her fingers to the bone – studying, completing practical and written assessments for her training and then (if that wasn’t hard work enough) assisting a friend at her medical clinic, helping the poor, needy and often “women of ill repute.”

This is where she comes across Lucy, a prostitute who comes in begging for help with an unwanted pregnancy, of course completely illegal in these times. She is turned away only to turn up dead on the anatomy table the next time Sarah sees her. Sarah feels devastated at what has happened but also determined to unearth the secrets of her death, especially when she suspects foul play and discovers tenuous links between Lucy and a professor at the medical school. However, she is treading on very dangerous grounds as some people may desire the secrets that died with Lucy to remain buried and may not necessarily welcome Sarah’s interference.

The Wages Of Sin was an exciting, roller-coaster ride of a novel that had me hooked from page one. Kaite Welsh writes with such a canny eye for detail that you can sense everything in the narrative – the smells, the sounds, the sights and it is brilliantly gritty and difficult to put down once started. Sarah was a fantastic character who was flawed but inherently such a good person and I loved her dogged determination in getting at the truth behind an obviously grisly murder. One of my favourite things about this novel though had to be learning about what female medical students had to suffer when studying to become doctors. They went through abominable treatment being mocked on a daily basis for their choice of career and the lack of confidence in what they could achieve was quite honestly, disgusting. Thank goodness times have changed! For a debut novel, this is an amazing piece of work and so beautifully written. I thoroughly enjoyed every page and cannot wait to see what Kaite Welsh does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0