A Place of Secrets by Rachel Hore

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Addition: Library paperback

Genre: Historical mystery, female fiction

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

The night before it all begins, Jude has the dream again…

Can dreams be passed down through families? As a child Jude suffered a recurrent nightmare: running through a dark forest, crying for her mother. Now her six-year-old niece, Summer, is having the same dream, and Jude is frightened for her.

A successful auctioneer, Jude is struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband. When she’s asked to value a collection of scientific instruments and manuscripts belonging to Anthony Wickham, a lonely 18th-century astronomer, she leaps at the chance to escape London for the untamed beauty of Norfolk, where she grew up.

As Jude untangles Wickham’s tragic story, she discovers threatening links to the present. What have Summer’s nightmares to do with Starbrough folly, the eerie crumbling tower in the woods from which Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther once viewed the night sky? With the help of Euan, a local naturalist, Jude searches for answers in the wild, haunting splendour of the Norfolk forests. Dare she leave behind the sadness in her own life and learn to love again?

This is a historical mystery that haunts one family, that is laced with a love story. Jude works for a prestigious auctioneer company in London. Things are looking bad for the company since the recession hit – that is until she receives a call from the Starbrough residence in Norfolk. They have a library which has many first additions and some historic star gazing equipment. Jude doesn’t know what to expect when she arrives in Norfolk – her old home. What she finds is an old folly, a niece having the same nightmares she used to have a family mystery and a lovely man…

I really enjoyed this book. It was not a quick read, but it was well worth reading. This is a book that encompasses the past and the present, love, history, astrology, travellers and family. The main focus of the book is the mystery. Jude is at Starbrough to look through and catalogue Anthony Wickham’s library collection, however, very early on she comes across a diary, not kept by Anthony, but his adopted daughter Esther. There are no records of Esther in the family archives – who was she? Where did she come from and what happened to her? Are the suspicions right – is she a girl from a noble background? If so, how did she end up lost at the side of the road in Norfolk, aged three? There are so many questions for Jude to answer. She roams around the countryside, hunting for clues – is there another diary? I really enjoyed this story line. Hore includes sections from Esther’s diary in the story – taking us back to her life – adding another dimension to the story.

Alongside this, Jude is still trying to recover from the death of her husband, her Gran has given her a necklace that belonged to her traveller friend, and wants Jude to find the friend to return the necklace and Jude is struggling with her sister Claire and the fact Claire’s daughter Summer is having the same nightmares that Jude used to have. What is the connection? Why is Summer having those dreams too? The most exciting part of the book was the climax at the end – Summer goes missing. Her dream leads her to the old folly – the building where Anthony Wickham used to star gaze. It is unsafe, possibly haunted and scares Summer. Yet she sleep walks there. It turns out, she is going to try and save Esther – who was locked up there after her father died – even though Esther lived in the 1800s. What is the connection between Esther and Summer?

All is revealed at the end – loose ends tied up and questions answered. Maybe the connections were too predictable and unrealistic, but I liked it! The ending is very neat – the family line that runs down to Summer and the Lord who happened to be working with the Jude’s auctioneer company. However, all answers were satisfying, and I enjoyed the way Hore wrapped the book up.

This is a complex book with many story lines, all linked fascinating. There is a love story – we get to see Jude’s broken heart healed by Euan – even though there was confusion about which sister he was falling for. Again, this romance is fairly predictable, but it was lovely anyway, and didn’t take over the story. It was a nice story that completed the book.

I thought all the characters were great to read about. I felt for Jude – finding it hard to relate to her sister, struggling with love and working hard to solve the Wickham mystery and get a great sale for her company. I really liked Chantel as well – the mother who lived at Starbrough Hall. She was caring, and loved the library – a great reason for me to like her!

This is a complex, exciting book. It has mystery, suspense and romance. This is the second book by Rachel Hore that I have read and I have really enjoyed both. She is fast becoming a favourite author and I highly recommend this book.

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