Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review (and trust me, honest is always what you’ll get).
Review: When thinking of a private investigator in Victorian times, I’m quite sure Laetitia Rodd is not at all what you’d expect. A widow of 52, who had previously lived a quiet life as a clergyman’s wife, she is now occasionally called upon by her brother – a rather successful barrister – to discretely investigate matters related to his clients. In this particular case, the son of a wealthy gentleman is looking to marry a woman whose background is questionable, and his family is hoping to prove the woman unworthy so their son can pursue a more appropriate match. What at first seems a straightforward background check of sorts, turns into a rather twisted murder mystery that Mrs. Rodd seems uniquely qualified to solve.
This may sound strange, but I found this book comforting. Like a familiar blanket or other comfort object, something that you can settle into and relax, and makes you feel at home. I suspect this is because it is, according to the author, a sort of reimagining of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, which means it naturally smacks of some of my old favorite Victorian classics. I used to lose myself in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations and the like, and so The Secrets of Wishtide, with its obvious classical influence, was easy to sink into. The language is, of course, much more accessible and modern than those classics, but the general feeling is very much the same.
And the characters were just so wonderful! Mrs. Dodd was as proper as you’d expect a good clergyman’s wife to be, but she was not a prude. I loved her sense of people, her compassion for everyone, her lack of pretentiousness, her cleverness, and the fact that she took on a role that was generally reserved for men, in a time when women were still legally considered their husband’s property.
The mystery itself was all over the place, full of surprises and seemingly dead ends. Not particularly intense or suspenseful, no gore or anything truly salacious. The kind of mystery I think anyone could enjoy and one I highly recommend. I’ll certainly be tuning in for the next in series.