We asked our subscribing librarians to choose their favourite book from the April edition, and the votes have come in.
In the orangery of her mother’s house, Phoebe Stanbury has welcomed the last of her guests arriving for the party to celebrate her engagement to Benjamin Raycraft. As she sits to rest her feet, she thanks God for such a lovely sunny June day and feels certain that 1881 is going to be a memorable year.
Phoebe Stanbury has less than ten minutes to live.
Detective Inspector Harry Treadway of the Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard is assigned the murder case. Early in his career, Treadway had uncovered corruption within the police force. Nine detectives lost their badges; four of them went to prison. He’s known as ‘Traitor’ Treadway throughout Scotland Yard.
Ambrose Habborlain sends word to his solicitor, Nathaniel Bridge, summoning him to an urgent meeting. Bridge is out of the office visiting a client, so William Lamb, 23 years old and a year away from completing his articles, goes instead. What he doesn’t realise is Habborlain’s house is under surveillance and innocent William’s life will change dramatically.
The Fourteenth Letter could easily be adapted to an action-packed television script, as many chapters have dramatic cliffhanger endings. In addition, a web of secrets is exposed, a conspiracy is unearthed and murders proliferate. Life was fragile in the 19th century. Sex, silence and sin were the norm in the Whitechapel area of London.
This rollicking yarn stretches credulity as the reader soon learns to suspend disbelief and enter into the spirit of the chase. Broken lives, broken dreams and broken hearts challenge the peripheral characters. The main protagonists, however, manage to escape miraculously with just a few bumps, bruises and bandages.
Evil triumphs where good men do nothing. William is a good man.
Claire Evans’s debut novel is exciting, ingenious and violent. Read it now or wait for the television series.
Reviewed by Clive Hodges