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Posts Tagged ‘The Coroner’s Daughter’

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** My thanks to Thomas at Transworld Books for my copy of The Cornoner’s Daughter **

 

Description:

1816 was the year without a summer. A rare climatic event has brought frost to July, and a lingering fog casts a pall over a Dublin stirred by zealotry and civil unrest, torn between evangelical and rationalist dogma.

Amid the disquiet, a young nursemaid in a pious household conceals a pregnancy and then murders her newborn. Rumours swirl about the identity of the child’s father, but before an inquest can be held, the maid is found dead. When Abigail Lawless, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Dublin’s coroner, by chance discovers a message from the maid’s seducer, she is drawn into a world of hidden meanings and deceit.

An only child, Abigail has been raised amid the books and instruments of her father’s grim profession. Pushing against the restrictions society places on a girl her age, she pursues an increasingly dangerous investigation. As she leads us through dissection rooms and dead houses, Gothic churches and elegant ballrooms, a sinister figure watches from the shadows – an individual she believes has already killed twice, and is waiting to kill again…

Determined, resourceful and intuitive, Abigail Lawless emerges as a memorable young sleuth operating at the dawn of forensic science.

My Thoughts & Review:

When the opening line of a book reads: “For my eighteenth birthday, Father promised me the hand of a handsome young man, which he duly delivered mounted in a glass bell-jar“, you can’t help but fall somewhat in love with the way Andrew Hughes writes.  That one sentence sums up Abigail Lawless perfectly, inquisitive and headstrong, pushing back against the notions of what is deemed appropriate for her in the time.

Abigail Lawless is not what society would expect of an 18 year-old woman, her unique upbringing surrounded by medical texts and the wealth of knowledge from her father has given her an interest that some may describe as unsavoury, almost borderline macabre.  But that does not dampen her thirst for knowledge, and having an inquisitive mind is what leads her to ask questions that she really should leave well alone.

Set in Dublin in 1816, the reader is transported to the gloomy streets where trouble and rumour are rife.  Unease is prevalent with the upsurgence of the Brethren, a religious group who seem to have connections throughout society and are not afraid to share their righteous messages with others.
The discovery of a dead newborn at the home of a Brethren household prompts an investigation by the coroner, which in turn captures the interest of his daughter.  Abigail seems almost disturbed at the notion that the nursemaid murdered her own child and resolves to find out what really happened.  Her quest for answers leads her down some dark alleys and facing unknown dangers, but it would seem that our plucky protagonist will not be deterred.  Despite her plucky attitude, she must conform to some social constructs and asks her father’s assistant Ewan Weir to accompany her when venturing out.

The way that the plot is constructed is nicely done, the details that develop into the bigger picture are cleverly sewn into the narrative, small hints and clues scattered throughout for readers to enjoy.  Alice’s love of science makes for some interesting reading and indeed the lessons taught by her father give readers extra information that proves useful later in the plot – I certainly learned something new about a plant I’d never considered poisonous before.
The mystery element to the plot coupled with the increasing tension makes this a very enjoyable read and one that my mind kept coming back to when I reluctantly had to stop reading.  I loved the way that things linked up, and despite being told not to think any further about things, Abigail’s mind kept working on ideas and notions, questioning anything that didn’t sit right, the same way that my own mind would.

Wonderfully descriptive settings transport the reader whether it’s to the dissection rooms, the gloomy lecture theatre or lavish ball, there’s a great sense of realism there that leaves a reader feeling that they can conjure clear images to enable them to enjoy that story that little more.

An absolutely wonderful historical fiction novel full of mystery, intrigue and forensic science!

You can buy a copy of The Coroner’s Daughter via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

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