EXCERPT: ‘A little boy died here!’ Mariah’s voice trembled from the bed,close to tears. ‘A little boy was murdered in this house!’
I walked over. ‘What?’
‘That house detective person just phoned-I’d forgotten all about him. He was asking for you, for some reason, he says he’s trying your mobile but you won’t pick up. Why’s he phoning you ? I was sleeping-he just woke me up and he told me to tell you a little boy was murdered here. A little boy was poisoned in this house! In the First World War! Oh my God, a … little … boy’ Her words dissolved into sobs.
I tried to soothe her. ‘Ach, I’m sure lots of people have died here,’ I said. ‘It’s a 400 year old house.’
The room was boiling and the air smelled sweet and sickly. ‘But a child was murdered here!’ Mariah wailed. ‘This is so horrible. So horrible. It makes sense now, the atmosphere in this place. Don’t you feel it? You have to!’
ABOUT THIS BOOK: As Dee looks back over her time in the Master’s Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother.
But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why was Felicity silent?
MY THOUGHTS: Step up into the spotlight, Lucy Atkins, and take a bow. Magpie Lane was one riveting read. One that started out quite innocuously, then slowly cranked up the tension until I was forgetting to breathe.
The story is revealed as Dee, the Scottish nanny, is interviewed by the police about the disappearance of the child she cares for. Felicity is selectively mute, following the death of her mother. Bereaved and bullied, she cannot speak to her stepmother or at school. In fact, other than a few words to her father, Felicity speaks to no one, until she senses a kindred spirit in Dee. But Dee has secrets of her own. Ones that would come to light if any of the desperate parents who employed her ever bothered to run a police check.
And then there is Linklater, employed to write a history of the house the family occupies in Oxford. For some reason, although Felicity is terrified by the ghosts that inhabit her room, she is captivated by his ghost tours through the graveyards and streets of Oxford.
This is such an atmospheric read, both setting and characterwise. I was appalled by the ‘absolutely horrible’ and ‘narcissistic’ parents this poor child had, and totally captivated by the story that unfolded. We learn a little of the history of Oxford, a little about mathematics, and there are frequent literary references and a few musical ones.
I had an inkling of an idea as to what had happened to Felicity but we are held in suspense until almost the end.
I had previously read The Other Child by this author, but now I will also be reading her other two novels.
‘Even in something as apparently concrete as maths, things can be right and wrong at the same time.’
THE AUTHOR: Lucy Atkins is an award-winning author, Sunday Times book critic and journalist. Her new novel, Magpie Lane, is a literary thriller narrated by the nanny of a missing girl, and set in an Oxford College. Her other novels are The Night Visitor, The Other Child and The Missing One.
Lucy reviews books for The Sunday Times and has written for newspapers such as The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, the T.L.S, and many magazines. She has also written several non fiction books.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Magpie Lane for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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