BLURB: “The year is 1792 and winter hangs heavy in Berkeley Square. As the city sleeps, the night-watchman keeps a cautious eye over the streets, and another eye on the back doors of the great and the good. Then in the dark he comes across the body of Pierre Renard, the local silversmith, lying dead, his throat cut and his valuables missing. It soon becomes clear that Renard had more than a few enemies, all with their own secrets to hide. At the centre of this web is Mary, the silversmith’s wife. Withdrawn and weak, haunted by her past and near-mad with guilt, hers is a story of murder, love and buried secrets…”
REVIEW: I don’t often read historical fiction books in this particular style, as any books I have read previously that combine history with crime I have tended to find quite dull. This book, however, enthralled me from the start and had me gripped the entire way through – and not just because I wanted to find out who had murdered the silversmith Pierre Renard, either. The novel tells the story of how the circle of silversmiths in London society cope with the death of one of their most prominent. charismatic and charming figures, who also happens to be one of the most hated men in London. The book focuses mainly on the stories of Mary, Renard’s widow, whose grief and suffering for the disabled brother that Renard took from her in the early years of their marriage has earned her a reputation as being half mad and alienated her from society; Harriet, his mistress, a young and beautiful gentlewoman married to a man who aggressively pursues the company of young boys to his own wife; Joanna, Harriet’s servant, who is struggling to cope with the death of her lover and the loss of her child many years before; Alban Steele, a visiting silversmith who has spent most of his life in love with Mary from afar; and Digby, the night watchman in Berkeley Square, whose hatred for the rich and obsession with both drink and Pierre’s death makes him very difficult for the reader to like or empathise with. Each character is written in a manner that is extremely compelling, and the reader develops their own type of attachment to all of them – even the spoilt, frivolous Harriet, whom we soon develop an almost paternal attraction to. The personal lives of these characters add intriguing levels of depth to the main vein of the story, that of trying to find the murderer of Renard, and are cleverly added to with the revelations from Renard’s diary at the beginning of each chapter. The reader soon finds themselves strongly sympathising with these characters for their various plights – I felt a strong sense of empathy towards Mary in particular, and was glad when she finally found happiness with Alban Steele towards the end of the novel. The revelation of Renard’s killer was very well done and a great surprise to the reader, which is of course what one wants from a murder mystery! The only problem I had with this book is that I felt there were still some loose ends that needed to be tied up, particularly with Harriet, whom I would have liked to have found out more about. There is a sequel, however, which I’m sure will answer many questions and which I am greatly looking forward to reading!