Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Lady in Black: Mini-Review

A glint of recognition came into her eyes and then a harsh sound came from her lips that might have been laughter; but there was no gaiety in it; it was a laugh that chilled the blood.
The Lady in Black by Anna Clarke (1977) is a lovely historical suspense/mystery set in 1882. Clarke has shown in previous novels that she has a knack for literary world suspense and this time she takes us to the Victorian era and gives us an inside peek at the publishing world of Chapman and Hall. She brings a bit of verisimilitude to the novel with real-life novelist George Meredith who actually served as a reader-adviser for the firm. A mysterious lady author, dressed all in black, carefully veiled, and giving an obviously false name has submitted a marvelous little novel that could be the next "Jane Eyre." It looks to be, with a bit of editing, the next run-away best seller. Except for one little detail--it's a story of murder and intrigue that rings just a little too true and Meredith suspects that "Faith Freeman" has used an actual tale of an undetected murder as her guide. Could it be possible that the lady in black is more than just the author of the tale--that she is a participant in the actual events?

That is one of the questions before the reader. Is there somewhere in London a gentleman who had a slightly mad, invalid wife who has recently died from apparent natural causes, but who was in all actuality scared to death by her husband? Did he really do it out of love for his young daughter's governess and a wish to be free to marry her? And is "Faith Freeman" that governess? And what will happen if the truth of the story is known?

Clarke alternates her tale between the clumsy workings of Chapman and Hall (and their efforts to decide what to do about this peculiar manuscript) and the conflict facing the budding novelist--her drive to be a writer versus her love and loyalties. The story is kept in near-perfect balance with plenty of action and a tense atmosphere that brings us to an unexpected grand finale. Is there murder? Yes, there is--but you'll be surprised at who really kills and gets killed. ★★★★

This fulfills the "Color in the Title" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card as well as three more Bingos! (Only one more square left on each card.)


fredamans said...

The next Jane Eyre ey?! I'm sold! LOL
Great review!

Jacquie said...

I was holding my breath to see if you would give this a thumbs up. I must have collected a dozen books by Anna Clarke, including this one, over the years and haven't read one of them yet. So happy to hear this was a keeper! I'll move it up on my TBR list. Thanks!

Bev Hankins said...

Hope you enjoy it, Jacqueline!

Katherine P said...

This sounds like a good one! I like the suspense and mystery of it all - especially when things aren't quite what they seem. I'm looking forward to reading this one!