Imagine the man you married was a murderer, in fact, one of the most infamous murderers in history. Susannah Chapman fears she is married to the monster who came to be known as Jack the Ripper.
Step into Victorian London where the wealthy and outwardly respectable live cheek-by-jowl with the dregs of society, each with their own sordid secrets: drugs, alcohol, violence, homosexuality, sexual perversions and cruelty. Sometimes the most dangerous are those who appear to be the most refined.
Born illegitimate to a mother not long out of childhood herself, Susannah becomes an orphan at five years old when her mother is brutally killed by one of her customers. Raised by grandparents the girl has always been a little different. Her kindly grandfather appreciates her more unusual nature but her strict grandmother despairs of her and is continually frustrated in her attempts to subdue what she sees as a wayward child. When her grandfather dies, Susannah assumes the role of carer for her ailing grandmother and dreams of a time when she will be free to make her own way in the world. Eventually that time arrives as Susannah nears thirty and she takes up training as a nurse at the London Hospital. Finally she feels she has achieved some independence and self-worth and with her closest friend, Aisling, makes a pretty fair nurse at a time when that profession is just beginning the transformation into the one we know today. When Aisling is killed by a violent drunk Susannah is devastated and begins to doubt her direction in life. But then she catches the eye of handsome young surgeon, Thomas Lancaster.
After a whirlwind romance, the pair are married but within weeks of their passionate honeymoon, cracks begin to appear feeding Susannah’s doubts about her own worth. Thomas is cruel and violent, capricious and erratic and as the weeks turn into months, his behaviour becomes more and more unpredictable. The newspapers are filled with lurid reports of the shocking murders of Whitechapel prostitutes and Susannah’s preoccupation with the details of these bring her to a strong suspicion that her husband could well be the violent perpetrator being sought by the police.
As the narrative proceeds the reader turns to first one and then another character, each of them with dark secrets, with growing unease while poor Susannah becomes more and more isolated and frightened for her own safety. Clare Whitfield has created in this, her debut novel, a marvellously wrought historical novel which swiftly becomes not just a murder mystery but a thriller with plot twists that are both unexpected and astonishing. It’s a page-turner of extraordinary depths – dare I say – a ripping yarn though not for the faint-hearted. There is liberal strong language and graphic bloody violence but a great read with a denouement that will make you gasp.
I would highly recommend it for anyone who loves a terrific suspenseful novel.
There is something about stories set in Holland that I find particularly appealing. Perhaps it is just the vicarious sight-seeing but for some reason they are always engaging and often quirky. This one is no exception. Combining adventure and mystery, family life, loyalty and very unusual entrepreneurship this will find an enthusiastic audience with readers from around ten years upwards.
Five babies were left at Little Tulip orphanage each one in direct contravention of the ‘baby abandonment rules’… one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket. Twelve years after the shocking flouting of the conventions, Milou, Sem, Fenna, Lotta and Egg are known as the ‘unadoptables’ but they have an unbreakable bond with each other. Though each yearns for a conventional family their more unusual bond surpasses this desire in each as they remain determined to stay together, even when that means having to stay in the orphanage under the tyrannical rule of Matron Gassbeek.
When a sinister stranger appears late one night and decides to adopt all five it can only mean one thing – something particularly nasty is in store for the children. This in turn means another one thing – they must escape from the home and find their own place in the world.
The amazing adventure of the Unadoptables as they flee Amsterdam and follow some sketchy clues to what they believe might be Milou’s original home and what follows is a roller-coaster ride filled with puppets and abandoned windmills, pirate ships, clockwork mechanics and suspicious locals not to mention the pursuit of one very dogmatic Kinderbureau representative.
This is at times hilarious and at others poignant with a very hefty dose of creepiness and suspense included. In other words, kids will lap it up!
If you are looking for something refreshingly different to tempt your lovers of such writers as Jessica Townsend, Neil Gaiman or Katherine Rundell, look no further. Highly recommended for middle primary to lower secondary readers.
I’m pretty certain that I’m not the only one who’s so excited that Anthony has his Alex mojo back J – and with the talk of the forthcoming movie there are bound to be many more readers added to the fold of fans.
In this new volume, seven adventures are recounted – making them perfect read-alouds for book talks or encouraging reluctant readers. I’m finding at present that as many girls as boys are borrowing the series (especially since I bought the new editions with the stunning cover art!). Since this collection includes three brand new adventures it will have as much appeal to existing fans as to those new to the series.
Whether it’s playing the part of assassin unknowingly, having a routine dentist visit turn into something far more sinister or skiing down steep slopes in a frantic attempt to save himself and others, Alex the reluctant spy manages to come out on top, largely thanks to his uncle’s dedication to bringing him up with the skills he would need.
Anthony Horowitz does thrilling suspense so well – as we know not only from his books but also his plethora script writing ventures. I know I’m not alone in my addiction to Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War!
As an introduction for the next generation of devotees or to add some excitement to your existing AR readers – this is a must have for your collection.