1940s, London, during WWII: Hetty Cartwright is in charge of an unspecified museum’s natural history collection that is evacuated to a country estate, Lockwood Manor, for safety during the Blitz. Lord Lockwood is tyrannical and dismissive, and his grown daughter, Lucy, is still under his thumb while in mourning for her mother’s recent death. This book has all the elements that make me excited to read: Gothic undertones, historical museum collections, a mysterious death surrounded by rumors of a haunting. As the book progressed, however, the suspense lessened and it became more of a battle of wills between the monstrous Lord Lockwood and the ineffectual Hetty Cartwright.
In retrospect, the book may have been improved with additional characters (something I rarely think is the case), who may have offered some red herrings or engaging side plots to allow the storyline to be more multifaceted.
The setting is dark enough to keep an atmosphere of intrigue, and the story, though it becomes sluggish in the middle, is original in its elements. The narrative becomes practically a pastiche echoing Daphne du Maurier, though not like that’s altogether a bad thing, as she’s one of my favorites.
I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I’m still going to keep Jane Healey on my radar.
Many thanks to BookishFirst for this advance copy in exchange for my review.