Friday 24 February 2023

Guest Review: A Gift of Poison by Bella Ellis

Haworth 1847 - Anne and Emily Brontë have had their books accepted for publication, while Charlotte's has been rejected everywhere, creating a strained atmosphere at the parsonage.

At the same time, a shocking court case has recently concluded, acquitting a workhouse master of murdering his wife by poison. Everyone thinks this famously odious and abusive man is guilty. However, he insists he is many bad things but not a murderer. When an attempt is made on his life, he believes it to be the same person who killed his wife and applies to the detecting sisters for their help.

Despite reservations, they decide that perhaps, as before, it is only they who can get to the truth and prove him innocent - or guilty - without a shadow of doubt.

Review: This is the fourth, and possibly last, book in the Brontë Mysteries series from this author. These historical crime stories feature the famous Brontë sisters who, while continuing with their writing careers, turn their hands to being amateur detectives, an activity they have kept well hidden from others, or so they thought.

This story, inspired by a true event, is set in 1847, when Charlotte’s book has been widely rejected, while Anne and Emily have had successes with their first novels. Charlotte is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her dear friend, Ellen Bussey, but instead the door is opened to Abner Lowood, the notorious and violent Haworth Strangler. Having been mysteriously cleared of his wife’s murder, he wishes the young ladies to use their detective skills to find the identity of the real murderer who he believes is trying to kill him also. Somehow he has discovered the Brontës’ secret and threatens to expose them if they do not take the case. The three, along with Ellen, embark on an investigation which leads them into the world of ghosts, supernatural beings and violence. They are determined to get to the bottom of the situation, whether it will clear the odious Lowood or prove his guilt, but at what danger to themselves?

This is a well written book, the thrilling adventure the sisters and friend experience mixed with an insight into their lives as authors and indeed their home life. It was a very scary story at times. It was amazing that in the midst of all the intrigue, Charlotte was filled with thoughts of Jane Eyre and took every opportunity to write what became a very successful novel. I found it heartbreaking to witness how hard the sisters and their father fought to rid their brother Branwell of his addictions, all to no avail. I can recommend this book to anyone interested in the lives of the Brontës or historical crime fiction.

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