** advanced copy received via publisher **
Author : Claire Evans
Title : The Fourteenth Letter
Pages : 440
Publisher : Sphere
Publication date : September 21, 2017
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 holding a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl’s life. Amid the chaos, 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. 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.
The Fourteenth Letter combines two of my favourite things : historical fiction with a murder mystery. Although I admit that initially, it was the cover that drew me in. It’s just so pretty! I jumped at the opportunity to read this one and while I had quite high expectations, I’m happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed at all.
Phoebe Stanbury is murdered at her engagement party but the investigation into her death isn’t the be all and end all of this story. The focus lies with a young clerk, William Lamb who’s an incredibly likeable character and I warmed to him immediately. William wants to move up in the world but when he meets a reclusive client, he inadvertently gets himself involved in events that will put his life in danger.
This is one incredible debut by Claire Evans. There’s an intricate and complex plot that I won’t get into any further to avoid spoiling it but suffice to say, it had me absolutely hooked. The author leads us through a delicious and immaculately woven web of secrets and even though the ultimate premise is quite dark and disturbing, she manages to lift the mood with surprisingly witty moments.
With vivid descriptions and a wonderful atmosphere, Claire Evans truly brings the various layers of London in the 1800’s to life, from Westminster to Whitechapel, from the rich to the poor, from the privileged to the dark underbelly of the criminal world. While there may have been a slight level of predictability, I found the conspiracies and twists plenty enough to keep me thoroughly entertained.
I really enjoyed this author’s writing, the brilliant characters and the intriguing plot and I look forward to reading more by Claire Evans in future.
Many thanks to Ella Bowman at Little Brown UK for my copy, which I chose to review honestly!
The Fourteenth Letter is available now!