Title: A Place of Secrets
Author: Rachel Hore
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5
Jude is an appraiser for an auction house in London, and she receives the opportunity of a lifetime when she’s asked to appraise Starbrough Hall. Starbrough is a large estate, full of the kinds of things that inspire Jude’s imagination, and Jude is eager to get started. She quickly becomes immersed in the story of an astronomer living in the eighteenth century at Starbrough, and is shocked to discover that the nightmares she had as a child might be related to what she’s discovering at the house.
A Place of Secrets is a novel set in the English countryside. There’s a large, rambling house, a mystery set in the past, and a present-day woman whose childhood nightmares somehow are related to the house she’s cataloguing. Seems like the perfect setup for a gothic mystery, yes? I’ll admit that I was disappointed to discover that, while this novel was an interesting read , it didn’t have the deliciousness of a gothic. Gothic mysteries have a certain feel, a creepy, close atmosphere, and this book just didn’t have that.
But don’t let that stop you from reading A Place of Secrets. Once I overcame that initial letdown, I really became immersed in this story. Jude’s an engaging main character; avid readers will be able to sympathize with her love of the written word. Her excitement at stumbling upon this old story is completely understandable, and her enthusiasm is infections. I appreciated Hore’s attention to detail, as well as her careful character development when it came to Jude.
The secondary characters in A Place of Secrets are also meticulously crafted, though they aren’t necessarily all likeable. Jude’s sister Claire is a real piece of work; from the beginning, it’s clear that Jude wants to help, especially after Summer (Claire’s daughter) begins having similar dreams to Jude’s. Jude is worried about her niece and feels compelled to solve the mystery of the house that has been haunting her, but Claire refuses to listen. She is petty and it’s clear she resents her sister. I admired Jude for trying as hard as she did.
The mystery is definitely an interesting one; an eighteenth century astronomer once roamed the halls of Starbrough. He had an adopted daughter, Esther, and it’s her story Jude becomes consumed with. The dual time periods are handled well, and Hore does a wonderful job keeping both suspenseful. All in all, this is an engaging, light read that will keep readers interested from beginning to end.
Other books by Rachel Hore: