I was drawn to this book as I am getting more and more enamoured by historical fiction as the weeks and months go by. Thankfully, this book has been no different!
In 1789 struggling writer Ben Dearlove rescues a woman from a furious Covent Garden mob. The woman is ill and in her delirium cries out the name “Miranda”. Weeks later an anonymous novel about the voyage of the Miranda to the fabled Great Southern Continent causes a sensation. Ben decides to find the author everyone is talking about. He is sure the woman can help him – but she has disappeared. It is soon clear that Ben is involved in something more dangerous than the search for a reclusive writer. Who is the woman and what is she running from? Who is following Ben? And what is the Admiralty trying to hide? Before he can discover the shocking truth Ben has to get out of prison, catch a thief, and bring a murderer to justice.
I loved how the author set up the mystery and the main narrative really quickly, with the utterings of the vulnerable girl and the mystery of the anonymous book.
I found Ben to be a likeable and well-developed character, who I was rooting for from the beginning, having been given an ultimatum by his dad. I enjoyed going on this journey with him!
Lucienne laced the narrative with evocative, immersive and raw descriptions of the main settings of the book: London, Bristol and the “fair land”. I loved reading about the hustle and bustle of the cities, and the clash of elegance and poverty. I was already hooked on the story, so providing these sometimes detailed descriptions only peaked my interest further.
This is in many ways an insightful and informative historical fiction novel, which has been well-researched and almost written in an old fashioned manner, which in this case is rather a compliment more than anything.
Through some of the narrative devices in the book, including the excerpts from the mystery book and author themselves, the writer develops the historical narrative further by bringing into question issues around colonialism and slavery.
Overall, this has been an engrossing and well-written mystery by a talented author, and has been one of the most interesting and original pieces of historical fiction I have read in a long time.