Anne Bonny #BookReview Ever This Day by @scribblemum Helen Moorhouse #Ireland #HistoricalFiction #Psychological #Thriller #Mystery @PoolbegBooks ‘Beautiful writing and Irish historical fiction at its finest. 5* genius’

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Ever This Day by Helen Moorhouse
My own copy via Kindle TBR mountain
Synopsis:

Little Frances slams the doors, and runs around the upstairs floors.
She’ll steal your pen or touch your hair, when you’re sure there’s no one there.
The nuns are meant to keep her safe, but she gets out of her own grave.
So pull your covers over your head, Little Frances isn’t dead …

On a bright spring day in London, Ria Driver sees a face she never thought she’d see again. Coincidence? Or her past coming back to haunt her? Suddenly, Ria is plunged back almost thirty years, to the time she spent as Supervisor at the Convent of Maria Goretti, a rural Irish boarding school. And although she has tried her best to forget, the memories come flooding back. Cold, darkness, isolation, loss … fear. Fear of the sadistic Mother Benedicta and her cruel punishments. And fear of the noises … the humming, the footsteps, the knocking …What was the cause of the sounds from the attic? And who was the child who should not have been there?

As events unfold, Ria realises that she can leave the past behind no longer, that her story needs an ending. And to find it, she must go back to where she swore she’d never go again.

My Review:

This novel is a cross-over of several genre’s. It has elements of historical fiction with the setting of 1942/1980s Ireland. It has a huge mystery surrounding the convent and discovered remains. It also has a real horror-creepy feel to it. I tried reading it alone at night by the light of my kindle and was seriously freaking out! The writing is stunning, despite the tough themes the author has challenged.
Envy, fear and rage this novel has it all!

What are the fabulous people at Poolbeg Books feeding their authors? This is the second novel I have reviewed this year under this publisher and both have been clear 5* Genius and added to my favourites of the year so far!

The novel opens in Ballykeeran August 1942, with a child seeking her sister Frances who is hiding. The child returns home alone. What seems quite simple, will soon become sinister as the book develops its various threads.

London 2015, Ria is a divorced, single teacher in her 50s. She has a daughter Emma now grown and flown the nest and a set of lovely friends. After a chance encounter on a London street and a related current news story, leaves Ria rattled. She begins to confide in best friend Jess and so her story begins. . .

‘That day that started the end of the story’

In 1987 Dublin, a young Ria dreams of a new life in Boston, America. But she is not within the means to afford the ticket. Jobs are hard to come by in 1980s Ireland when she spots an ad for a live-in teacher/guardian at a convent. Sitting in her bed-sit in Rathmines orphaned and penniless. The job at St Theresa’s all girls secondary school beckons. Ria is a newly qualified teacher and desperate for both money and a chance to prove herself. She considers it ‘step one of the plan’.

When she arrives at the convent, Ria is struck by the peaceful countryside and old building. She is greeted by Sister Ruth and taken to meet the mother superior Mother Benedicta. Ria is shown to her cell-like room, with a crucifix hanging above the bed and she instantly begins to regret her decision. With lights, out at 10pm and nowhere else to go. Ria will have to swallow her pride and make it work at the convent.

During her meeting with Mother Benedicta she is informed of her duties and hours. Her day will begin at 7:30am and end at 10:30pm. It is a long day packed full of order, discipline, physical activity and most of all silence. . .

‘When the mouth is closed, the mind and the heart are open to Jesus’ –
Mother Benedicta

She is given a duties pamphlet and reminded that idleness is unacceptable in both herself and the girls she will chaperone.
‘We strive for purity’ – Mother Benedicta

The novel also has the point of view of Lydia. One of the young boarding students at the convent. She describes the prison-like conditions herself. Electronic devices such as a walk-man are banned, and life is dull. Lydia only has 9 months left, until she reaches the end of her last year. Through Lydia we learn that the convent used to house younger girls in what they call the ‘baby dorm’ which is now sealed off. Strange noises are often heard to come from the room.
It is through this haunting, that a friendship will form between Lydia and Ria.

In the convent, day students and boarders are purposely separated. There are 64 boarders when Ria arrives. Teachers and nuns do not mix and with 7/8 teaching nuns, it becomes a lonely existence for Ria. When her romance with boyfriend Leonard dissolves into nothing, Ria is left more alone and deserted than ever before. When the autumn approaches, strange things begin to happen, and Ria becomes terrified of the convent in which she lives.

‘There was so much bad stuff to come – I just didn’t know it’ – Ria

With the flashbacks to 1942, we learn about the missing young girls Frances. How her mother and father are heartbroken, and the mother turns on the remaining daughter. Branded the ‘devil’s child’ the remaining sister suffers severe emotional and mental abuse and anguish.

We learn Lydia’s backstory and how she came to be living at the convent. Her familial history is similar to Ria’s and you can see how the two could form a strong bond.

Ria meets Mr Flynn (Matthew) who is hired every year to create a musical performance. The performance offers a much-needed distraction to Ria and Lydia.
The introduction of Matthew also brings Ria a friend.

When Lydia is caught with a walk-man we see the voracious pent-up rage inside of Mother Benedicta. She is a formidable woman and has every on the edge,
petrified of her temper.

“The devil is a hard worker” – Mother Agnes

Ria fears being sacked from her position and financial ruin. Which will in-turn see her turn a blind eye to emotionally abusive practices. Until one day, something so bad happens Ria vows to leave and never return. . .

‘This place is poison – I have to get away from here’ – Ria

I can’t fully express how much I enjoyed this novel for fear of leaving spoilers. But it has so many various themes and really keeps you on your toes. You become absorbed by Ria’s story and hang onto every scene that she is in.

The various themes make this novel perfect for book groups. The danger of obedience to positions of power. The women oppressed by long-held traditional values. The extremist Catholic views that are blind to the pain and suffering they cause. Lydia’s coming of age as an orphan in unforgiving times. Are all fabulous talking points. I only wish the novel came with an added extra of reading group topics.

Beautiful writing and Irish historical fiction at its finest.
5* genius

HM
Helen Moorhouse
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Ever This Day is available via Kindle Unlimited

Currently on the TBR pile:
smts
Sing Me To Sleep by Helen Moorhouse
Also available via Kindle Unlimited
Synopsis:

Some love is neverending. First love. A mother’s love for her child. This, Jenny Mycroft learns when she finds herself unable to leave her husband, Ed and her daughter Bee, despite the fact she has died in a tragic car accident.

But no matter how strong, how enduring, her love, Jenny learns that life goes on and that for the living there is still time for new love, for fresh heartbreak.

Through a series of snapshots spanning over 30 years, Sing Me To Sleep looks at the lives of three women who love, and are loved, by one man. Through heartbreak, joy and hope to the eventual dramatic events that bring all three women together.

Sing Me To Sleep is the story of how we are driven by love, even after death. A tale of what might have been, what should have been, and what was.

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview The Street Orphans by @Authormary Mary Wood #Saga #NewRelease #HistoricalFiction @panmacmillan ‘A stark portrayal of the Victorian era in Lancashire 5*’

The Street Orphans high res cover
The Street Orphans by Mary Wood
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Born with a club foot in a remote village in the Pennines, Ruth is feared and ridiculed by her superstitious neighbours who see her affliction as a sign of witchcraft. When her father is killed in an accident and her family evicted from their cottage, she hopes to leave her old life behind, to start afresh in the Blackburn cotton mills. But tragedy strikes once again, setting in motion a chain of events that will unravel her family’s lives.

Their fate is in the hands of the Earl of Harrogate, and his betrothed, Lady Katrina. But more sinister is the scheming Marcia, Lady Katrina’s jealous sister. Impossible dreams beset Ruth from the moment she meets the Earl. Dreams that lead her to hope that he will save her from the terrible fate that awaits those accused of witchcraft. Dreams that one day her destiny and the Earl’s will be entwined.

My Review:

I have previously read and loved Brighter Days Ahead by Mary wood. Which I thoroughly enjoyed as a ww2 fiction saga. This novel however, takes on a whole other angle. The Street Orphans is a much darker novel, which fully explores the themes of poverty in Victorian society. The plight of the children, whilst remaining factual accurate, is unbearable at times. It is just so painful and as a parent myself, I dreaded the thought of having to endure such harsh times.

The novel opens in 1850 when the lives of one young family are ripped apart. Ruth Dovecote is the oldest of five siblings, she finds herself the mother figure. After the death of their father in a recent accident, the family are served an eviction notice 24hrs after the funeral. They are cold, penniless and hungry. Their mother decides to make the trek to Lythe Fell in Blackburn, to her cousin’s residence.
Only the journey doesn’t go as planned.

On the journey the carriage of the Earl of Harrogate hits Ruth’s mother causing an instant death. Despite witnessing the death of their beloved mother, the children rally to save the passengers. The Earl is far from grateful and mocks Ruth’s club foot, with nothing but utter contempt for her. . .

‘And us within spitting distance of Pendle Hill, where they hanged a whole bunch of your kind a couple of centuries ago’ – Earl of Harrogate

The legend that surrounds Pendle Hill and specifically the witches of Pendle Hill, is well known. At least it is to me. I grew up in Lancashire and Pendle Hill could be clearly seen from the front doorstep of my grandmother’s house on Summer Street in Nelson. I can remember my granny Winnie filling my head with tales of her past in Lancashire. My Gran worked in the mills and my grandad worked down the pits. They had both known harsh childhoods, full of poverty and yet gave nothing but love their entire lives. My Grandfather himself was an Orphan at 17yrs of age. His father committed suicide after ww1, my grandad found his body at just 10yrs old. So, I suppose the themes of orphans/poverty hit me quite hard emotionally. I remember my gran telling me that at 17yrs old my grandad couldn’t afford shoes for his feet and that he had also endured sleeping rough. This is a man that would give you the shirt of his back, his last fiver or giant hug whenever you needed it. Lancashire might have a history of poverty and endurance under difficult times. But it also has an incredible history of love, friendship and warmth amongst its people.

Anyhow, back to the story before I am crying!
Ruth saves the Earl despite his vile attitude towards her. when he then makes violent threats towards her younger sister Elsie 4yrs old.
Ruth sees red and this leaves the Earl dead!
What will become of the children now?

Across Lancashire we are introduced to Katrina, daughter to a wealthy mill owner. She is betrothed to Lord Bertram Rollinson, the Earl of Harrogate. At just 21yrs old, she finds this a rather daunting prospect.
She is unable to marry for love and this she finds disheartening. . .

‘Lord Rollinson is trading a title for me, and daddy’s acceptance into society circles, just to get his hands on our money. How could you wish this to happen to me?’ – Katrina

However, Katrina is in for a surprise because Bertram is no longer among the living. Which will lead to his brother Frederick to take his place as Earl. Which brings a whole new dimension to Katerina’s marital woes.

‘Marriage in your society is no more than a business contract’ – Arkwright

The new Earl of Harrogate, Frederick is deeply concerned for the welfare of the children involved in the crash. He knows their actions allowed his mother Lady Eleonore to survive it. He hunts them down in a desperate attempt to help them. But these are street smart kids, who’s only experience of ‘toffs’ is one of exploitation and abuse. Ruth avoids the earl at every turn, which leads her to Ma Perkins and a whole new nightmare!

The novel covers a wide-range of themes as we follow not only the working-class characters but the society elite. Whilst the poor may fall prey to violence, rape and extreme poverty. The wealthy experience their own set of struggles. They live in s society built on reputations, where their status can be crushed in the blink of an eye. The women also experience being married off, as though they are pawns in a game of chess, being moved off to advance the males in the family. The author has done an outstanding job of covering the various people within the society and maintaining historical accuracy.
A stark portrayal of the Victorian era in Lancashire 5*

Mary Wood
Mary wood
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My ReviewBrighter Days Ahead

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
The Street Orphans - Blog tour 2018

 

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Her hidden Life by @VSAlexander3 V.S. Alexander #ww2Fiction #HistoricalFiction #NewRelease @AvonBooksUK She would risk everything for the man she loves. . .

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Her Hidden Life by V.S. Alexander
Synopsis:
Her Hidden Life is currently just 99p in the UK on Kindle!
The title was released in the US under a different name – ‘The Taster’.

A forbidden love. A deadly secret.

It’s 1943 and Hitler’s Germany is a terrifying place to be.
But Magda Ritter’s duty is the most dangerous of all…

Assigned to The Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat, she must serve the Reich by becoming the Führer’s ‘Taster’ – a woman who checks his food for poison. Magda can see no way out of this hellish existence until she meets Karl, an SS officer who has formed an underground resistance group within Hitler’s inner circle.

As their forbidden love grows, Magda and Karl see an opportunity to stop the atrocities of the madman leading their country. But in doing so, they risk their lives, their families and, above all, a love unlike either of them have ever known…

Extract:

Karl informed us that Hitler often stayed at the Berghof for only a short time before leaving for another headquarters or hiding place. When Hitler was in residence, a giant Nazi flag flew over the grounds. As it turned out, he wasn’t even at the Berghof for about two weeks in May. I wasn’t sure where he went, but Karl, on the sly, told me it was to the ‘Wolf’s Lair.’ To foil assassination attempts, the Führer kept his travel schedule secret and often switched trains or flights at the last moment or showed up early or late for appointments. He’d used this tactic for years, and it had served him well, particularly since the war broke out.
A rumor circulated that Hitler was holding a reception at the Teahouse for kitchen staff before he left on his next trip. It would be the first time I had a chance to meet the leader of the Reich. I asked Karl about this and he confirmed it was true.

After breakfast the next morning, everyone was in high spirits and anticipation about ‘tea’ with the Führer. A light rain fell, but it did not dampen our gay mood. Cook wanted me to take inventory from the greenhouses and record food items, in addition to my tasting duties, so I was late getting back to my room.

‘Eva has instructed everyone to wear traditional Bavarian garments,’ Cook told me. ‘There will be a costume on your bed.’

‘Why is dressing up so important?’ I asked her.

‘Because Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer, is here. He and Eva thought it would be a good opportunity to capture the benevolent spirit of the Führer as he entertains and thanks his staff.’ She chuckled. ‘Eva loves to dress up. That’s really why we’re doing it.’

When I went back to my room, I interrupted Ursula. She was already dressed in her Bavarian costume. I really had no fondness for the hose, petticoats, the flouncy dress and puffy sleeves of the garment. Ursula sat on her bed, sewing her apron. She turned quickly away from me when I entered.

‘You’d better get ready,’ Ursula said, looking back over her shoulder. Her fingers trembled and the needle slipped from her hand.

‘Are you all right?’ I asked. ‘Is there a problem with your apron?’ She shook her head. ‘I’m shaky because I haven’t eaten. I need to get to the kitchen for some food.’ She began sewing again and stitched across the apron’s left pocket.

‘There’s not much to eat now. The staff is preparing lunch, but I wouldn’t be concerned about me getting ready. I’m sure it’ll be after four before we’re called to the Teahouse. We’ve got plenty of time.’ Ursula sighed. ‘Yes, plenty of time.’

She went back to her work as I inspected my dress and its trimmings. ‘I don’t have an apron. Do I need one?’

Her eyes dimmed. ‘I don’t know. You might ask Cook. This one was given specifically to me.’

I stretched out on my bed with a book. ‘The weather is so nasty it’s a good day for reading.’

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour**
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The House On Half Moon Street by @storyjoy Alex Reeve 5* #HistoricalFiction #CrimeFiction #NewRelease @BloomsburyRaven #LeoStanhope #Series Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder

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The House On Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve
Review copy – netgalley
Synopsis:

Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder. Introducing Leo Stanhope: a Victorian transgender coroner’s assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future

Leo Stanhope. Avid chess player; assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.

For Leo was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable reverend. But knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – and unable to cope with living a lie any longer, he fled his family home at just fifteen and has been living as Leo: his secret known to only a few trusted people. But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.

A wonderfully atmospheric debut, rich in character and setting, in The House on Half Moon Street Alex Reeve has created a world that crime readers will want to return to again and again

My Review:

The House On Half Moon Street is a debut novel and #1 in the Leo Stanhope series. This series is set in Victorian London 1880. What makes this historical crime fiction novel so unique, is that Leo was born female. Now, this is not to be confused with Leo masquerading as a male in-order to pursue a career. As did occur within the historical era, due to the opportunities and privileges not afforded to women. Leo truly is transgender, he fully believes he was born in the wrong body. He made the decision to live as a man in his teens and fled his religious upbringing to pursue life, living as he truly believes he is. A man.

‘I’d rather be dead than be Lottie Pritchard’ – Leo

The novel opens at the coroner’s officer of Mr Hurst, an ironic surname, I’ll give you that much! But Leo is assisting with the autopsy of a young man, named Jack flowers. His death is ruled an accident, likely alcohol induced.
This opening gives you an insight into the way Leo’s mind works and how he has an instinct similar to a detective. He is inquisitive and asks questions.

Leo lives above a pharmacy in Soho, with a widowed landlord Alfie and his young daughter Constance. Their lives are plagued by poverty and living on the fringes of the workhouse. I felt this additional information about background characters really added to the historical feel of the novel.
You can’t escape the Victorian London smog, poverty and whole feel to the novel.

It isn’t long until we are through the doors of Elizabeth Brafton’s Brothel, on Half Moon Street. Where Leo meets with Maria every week for a 2hr appointment. Only on this occasion he asks Maria on a date, to the opera, the coming Saturday at 2pm.

“I love you, my Leo” – Maria
‘It was me she loved’ – Leo

On Thursday Leo attends his usual chess club meeting with friend and confidant Jacob. Jacob is distrustful of Maria and warns Leo of the dangers of trusting or falling for a woman like her. Due to his inebriated state, his warnings fall upon deaf ears.
For Leo is a man in love.

On Saturday Leo arrives at the opera and Maria is a no-show. Leaving a very sad and deflated Leo to watch the opera alone. When he arrives the next morning at work, it is to the discovery of a burglary. But what is there to steal in a mortuary? When the body for autopsy is wheeled in, Leo passes out! For the body on the slab, is non other than his beloved Maria. . . .

Leo can’t face work and takes several days off sick. He is roused from his grief when two police officers arrive to take him to the station. Leo begins to fear his secret will be uncovered. Detective Sgt Ripley tries to prise some facts from Leo, but it becomes evident Leo actually knows very little about Maria. After an eventful night in the cells, with Leo on the verge of confessing his sexuality.
He is finally released. But that doesn’t solve the mystery of who killed Maria?

Leo attends Maria’s funeral where he has to face some harsh truths. It is revealed that Maria told many lies to Leo, even her real-name. Maria’s fellow working girl Audrey attempts to offer some words of condolence and faith in Leo. But it is the mysterious Madame Louisa Moreau that grabs his interest. She offers Leo her card and gives the impression she may have more information.

‘Takes a man to do something like that, and you’re a woman underneath’ – Audrey

Due to missing so many days at work, Leo is demoted. He cares very little about this, as Maria’s murder torments his mind over and over again. He decides it is time to meet the elusive Madame Moreau. Louisa is a back-street abortionist. she openly challenges Leo on his decision to live as a man, which makes for intriguing conversation. Up until now, no one has challenged Leo on how he chooses to live his life. Mostly due to him living in near complete secrecy. I found Louisa fascinating, but the only information she holds is Maria may/may not have had a soldier as a lover, possibly an officer.

‘Why should I seem other than what I am?’ – Leo Stanhope

With little to go and no real authority to investigate. Leo must think on his feet, using his access to hospital records and ability to impersonate a police officer.
Leo pursues his own case, he is determined to reveal Maria’s killer.

There are various themes within this novel. The theme of gender roles in Victorian society, being transgender and being forced to live in secrecy. Also, the role of sex work in Victorian London, which many women did as a means to survive. There is a great twist at the end, that completely fooled me!
I am thoroughly impressed with the authors skills to weave a clever tale and look forward to the next instalment in the Leo Stanhope series.

Leo Stanhope is a brilliant protagonist and I personally think the series will thrive
5*

AR
Alex Reeve
Twitter
The House On Half Moon Street was released yesterday!
Happy publication day Alex Reeve!

Anne Bonny #BookReview The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese 5* Genius #Literary #NewRelease #HistoricalFiction @Duckbooks ‘Perfect for fans of The Underground Railroad’

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The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese
Review Copy
Synopsis:

With dramatic twists and reminiscent of Gothic novels, The Spirit Photographer is replete with fugitive hunters, voodoo healers, and dangers lurking in the swamp. Varese’s deftly plotted debut is an intense tale of death and betrayal that will thrill readers as they unravel the mystery behind the spirit in the photograph and what became of her.

Boston, 1870. Photographer Edward Moody runs a booming business capturing the images of the spirits of the departed in his portraits. He lures grieving widows and mourning mothers into his studio with promises of catching the ghosts of their deceased loved ones with his camera. Despite the whispers around town that Moody is a fraud of the basest kind, no one has been able to expose him, and word of his gift has spread, earning him money, fame, and a growing list of illustrious clients.

One day, while developing the negative from a sitting to capture the spirit of the departed son of a senator, Moody is shocked to see a different spectral figure develop before his eyes. Instead of the staged image of the boy he was expecting, the camera has seemingly captured the spirit of a young black woman.

When Moody recognizes the woman, he is compelled to travel from Boston to the Louisiana bayou to resolve their unfinished business. But more than one person is out to stop him…

My Review:

The Spirit Photographer is a Southern Gothic literary novel, which has outstanding detail and truly brings alive the era. The fact that it is a debut novel only makes it more astounding. As I would recommend this for fans of The Underground railroad by Colson Whitehead. It is that good! The novel details the confederate states, the difference between northern/southern states of the US in that era. The racial oppression and fight for civil rights is covered in resounding accuracy. Yet, it also has this huge hook, of having an occult theme within. Can ghosts be captured on camera film? And if so does this mean our loved ones are still with us? For one unlikely lady, it is too much of a question to bare and she dares to seek the answers.
Which leads her to uncover all her secrets and personal shame. . .

The novel opens with Mr Moody, taking a photo for Mrs Lovejoy. A lady that wishes to be reunited with her deceased cousin. There are several articles within the novel that detail Mr Moody’s reputation and success as a spiritual photographer.
Slowly but surely, he is acquiring fame and fortune.

The novel centres around a married couple, the Garrett’s. Their desire to be reunited with their beloved and only, perished son William Jeffrey. Who passed away 18yrs ago, at just 3yrs old. His last words haunt his mother Elizabeth and she has never been the same woman, since he passed.
Can Mr Moody help her overcome her grief?

‘It will be gone soon’ – William Jeffrey’s last words

But the Garrett’s aren’t just any couple, for they are the political elite. Senator James Garrett is quite the radical given the historical era and setting. He has won clear legal victories against the Klan and championed the election of Hiram Revels a black Mississippi minister. James has a desire to secure fundamental rights for all the country’s citizens. He is not afraid of who this may involve taking on. Even his closest friend and loyalist ally Benjamin P Dovehouse.

Elizabeth’s roots are in southern plantations, whilst some may call her a hypocrite she uses her privilege to speak out against the harsh and unjustifiable treatment that takes place on the plantation crop fields. Which only adds to James political power. Make no mistake James and Elizabeth Garrett have political power, but they also have secrets.

‘These women could talk, and pretend to understand federal policy all they liked. But they would never be able to perceive what they were incapable of seeing. Elizabeth had seen’

Mrs Lovejoy makes the necessary introductions between Mr Moody and the Garrett’s. Once the photo is taken, it reveals a spirit. But this is not the spirit anyone could have foreseen, least of all the Garrett’s. This is the spirit of a slave girl, named Isabelle. But who is Isabelle? Why is she in the photo of the Garrett’s?

‘It was Isabelle – His Isabelle. She had finally returned’

Mr Moody becomes acquainted with Joseph Winter. Winter hopes to expose Moody as a fraud, but until he can achieve such an act he must place himself in the position of Mr Moody’s assistant. This is made much easier via negotiation, after the discovery of Isabelle in the photo. For not only did Winter know Isabelle, he is a black man and therefore able to infiltrate the black community of the south.

‘She is a powerful spirit’ – Joseph Winter

Moody hasn’t heard from Isabelle in 18yrs, since she sent him a letter before heading for Boston. He was unaware she had even passed on.
Does this photo mean that Isabelle, his love, is dead?

Winter is quick to determine their must be a link between Isabelle and the Garrett’s for her spirit to show in their image. Whilst Moody and Winter, set about their investigation.
The Garrett’s are also making plans. . .

‘If he publishes that picture, it could lead to our ruin’ – Elizabeth Garrett

The Garrett’s are extremely concerned for their reputations. They know their elitist society thrives upon rumour, speculation and assumptions. Elizabeth becomes irrational and anxious, urging James to take action. It is then that James summons Dovehouse to retrieve the image, at once.

Benjamin P Dovehouse is James best friend since their years at Harvard law school. However, Dovehouse holds rather different opinions about the negro community. He is a conservative republican and long-standing member of the American colonization society. Dovehouse believes the negroes should know their place in society.

‘A semi-barbarous race of men who worship fetishes and practice polygamy, intent on subjecting all white women to their hot unbridled lust’ 
‘The negroes are little more than children’ – Dovehouse

Moody and Winter quickly become aware that if they are going to uncover the truth, they must act quickly. They also know that they must head south, to where all Isabelle’s trouble began. . .

‘She had a power over them, as she has a power over then now. They will want this photograph destroyed’ – Joseph Winter

At this point I was fully engrossed. I was desperate to know the link between Isabelle and the Garrett’s. I also wanted to know what was so shameful, that they’ll go to such lengths to cover it up? As stated above the historical accuracy is second to none. But it isn’t just historical accuracy that makes a novel of this calibre succeed. It also requires outstanding characterisation, which you will find when you meet Moody, Winter and the Garrett’s and the people we meet along the journey.

The conversations between the characters often reference the racial bias of the generation. The ignorance however wilful, is laid bare for all to see.
“It’s a wonder to me that the women of the south can abide such barbarism”
“And just who do you think is sewing the hoods?”

As Moody and Winter make their journey to New Orleans, they both reflect upon their memories of Isabelle and what made her the woman she was. The kind, decent and honourable woman she once was.

‘Every year a hundred thousand newborn babies are brought upon the auction blocks of Richmod, Charleston, and New Orleans. Every year, tens of thousands of lives are sacrificed to the lash in the south’ – Isabelle

The answers Moody and Winter seek lay in BelleVoix, New Orleans. But they upon the journey Winter must dodge Wilcox, a notorious slave hunter. They come across a wide-range of characters, that just enhance the story in its entirety, such as Yellow Henry. What starts as a simple mystery evolves into a much bigger case, with its roots leading right to congress.

This is an outstanding novel, that I highly, highly recommend!
5* Genius

‘It was convenient – to blame the negroes. It was a trick that always worked’

MJV
Jon Michael Varese
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***The Spirit Photographer is released 3rd May***