For fans of The Silent Companions and The Familiars, a propulsive gothic mystery that invites the reader to unlock the secrets of Nottinghamshire’s infamous Southwell workhouse.
When well-to-do Hester learns of her sister Mercy’s death at a Nottinghamshire workhouse, she travels to Southwell to find out how her sister ended up at such a place.Haunted by her sister’s ghost, Hester sets out to uncover the truth, when the official story reported by the workhouse master proves to be untrue. Mercy was pregnant – both her and the baby are said to be dead of cholera, but the workhouse hasn’t had an outbreak for years.Hester discovers a strange trend in the workhouse of children going missing. One woman tells her about the Pale Lady, a ghostly figure that steals babies in the night. Is this lady a myth or is something more sinister afoot at the Southwell poorhouse?As Hester investigates, she uncovers a conspiracy, one that someone is determined to keep a secret, no matter the cost…
Imagine having ghostly apparitions appear in your eyeline, apparitions that could signal something wrong, something that would affect your very being. This was the case for Hester, young, bound by Quaker traditions and a father who ruled the house with an iron fist, and a mother who bowed to her husbands every wish and command.
Ward gave her a life that tottered along, the elopement of her sister, Mercy the only major disruption, yet a letter that announced Mercy’s death and a journey to Nottingham, a stay with her mothers friend Dorothy to find answers gave her the jolt she needed to open her eyes, to broaden her mind.
Ward certainly did that in more ways than one, the journey itself, a new and not altogether pleasant experience. I loved Ward’s vivid descriptions of the salubrious inns, the passengers she met along the way as she slowly left her sheltered life behind.
Ward didn’t stop there, and her arrival at The Black Griffin Inn with no Dorothy to greet her put Hester at the mercy of its owner, Matthew, a gruff man, who eyed her with suspicion. Her subsequent questions and need for directions to Southwell Union poor house appeared to set off alarm bells, and you could imagine the ripples it would have sent around the town. Yet Hester was a woman who was not be perturbed, half driven by a need for answers but also a naivety that Ward instilled within, the danger always ever present, the shadowings never far away. Did she find the answers? It appeared so, was this the end, apparently not as Ward had far much more instore
A return journey to Nottingham, a stay with Dorothy and her daughter Caroline and twice weekly visitations to Southwell Union sparked a chain of events that had a wonderful ghoulish, chilly feel to them. The shadowings became more intense, the danger more apparent, the answers altogether too much to contemplate. She threw in the most wonderful characters, the addled, addicted drug Dr Bant, the handsome Doctor Edward but most importantly the women who resided in the poorhouse. You felt sorry for their plight, for their treatment, willed Hester onwards to bring justice.
We were never quite sure who the culprits would be, I went backwards and forwards multiple times, as I attempted to pick up on Ward’s clue. Did I guess correctly? I got one right but in no way did I see the second, which made it all the more shocking, the greed, selfishness and complete disregard for others this character harboured was beyond imaginable but made sense and Ward gave them a suitably fitting ending.
What concerned most was Hester’s ending and Ward did not disappoint, in fact it left me with the higest grin and feelings of great satisfaction.
I would like to thank Trapeze for a copy of Shadowing to read and review and to Compulsive Readers for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour
About the author
Rhiannon Ward is the pseudonym for Sarah Ward, the bestselling and critically acclaimed crime author. Sarah has a masters degree in Religious History and has long been fascinated by the long tradition of spiritualism in England and is a member of the Institute of Psychical Research. Sarah is also a crime reviewer and book blogger at Crime Pieces.