Monday 3 August 2015

Review ~ The Penny Heart by Martine Bailey


After being arrested for a petty crime, teenager Mary Jebb is sentenced to seven years transportation to the penal colony in Botany Bay. On the surface, she is repentant of her crime, but fearing her disappearance and determined never to be forgotten, she inscribes these words on two silver pennies, which will have repercussions for years to come and which seals the fate of three very different people.

Though chains hold me fast,
As the years pass away,
I swear on this heart
To find you one day

Sweeping across a haunting and brooding landscape, this complex and beautifully written historical crime novel uncovers a myriad of secrets and tells of lives irrevocably linked together by the powerful need for revenge. The story moves along quite quickly, and the introduction of the other cast of characters is done with a subtle hand. The story of Grace Moore and her ill-fated entanglement with Michael Croxon is cleverly controlled, and the introduction of Peg Blissett, as their housekeeper, into the ménage, is filled with both a sense of Gothic gloom, and melodramatic intrigue. And yet, for all the brooding nature of the narrative, there is a hidden subtlety, highlighted in the snippets of wonderful recipes which head each chapter, and which helps to highlight the culinary delights and absorbing mystery which are so much a feature of this author's impeccable writing skill.

The mystery, at the heart of the novel is complex and convoluted , dark and deliciously dirty in places and just so wonderfully contrived and maintained that I really was kept guessing throughout the whole of the story. To say more would be to spoil the effect, but the dénouement which it comes is entirely appropriate and left me shrieking with approval.

There is no doubt that this talented author does an excellent job of bringing eighteenth century history and culture alive in such  a totally believable way, that by the end of the story you really are on the edge of your seat begging for more.

Martine Bailey


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