Title: MAGPIE LANE
Author: Lucy Atkins
Publisher: Quercus Books
Read: February 2020
Publisher: Quercus Books
Read: February 2020
Expected publication: 2 April 2020
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 all the stars!
Let me introduce you to my second 5-star read for 2020 – TA DA!
When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers.
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?
Roaming Oxford's secret passages and hidden graveyards, Magpie Lane explores the true meaning of family - and what it is to be denied one.
What attracted me to this book:
MAGPIE LANE was like my own personal formula for reading bliss. A nanny in an old spooky English manor house in Oxford. Family secrets. A disturbed child who may or may not have some connection to the weird noises and shadows flitting about in the house at night. Characters who ALL have something to hide. All the very things I just LOVE in a mystery!
Dee is a middle-aged woman with some secrets in her past that have seen her live a life looking after other people’s children. She has stayed with many different families and cared for children of all ages and backgrounds, but none has ever got under her skin the same way Felicity has, this pale, mute and unhappy daughter of Oxford’s latest Don.
I immediately loved Dee, from the very moment she shares her self-deprecating humour:
“It may be my functional approach to fashion, but people seem to assume that I’m in charge.”
The picture was painted. A somewhat plain but keenly intelligent middle-aged woman wearing drab clothes to roam the grey streets of a wintry Oxford, wielding an umbrella. I soon realised that I, too, had misjudged her, because Dee was not only smart, but also fiercely loyal to her latest little charge. Not an easy job when you are pitted against Felicity’s father, the arrogant Nick, and her trendy Danish stepmother Mariah.
It wasn’t long until the plot thickened. Nick and Mariah have a dark secret they are determined to keep hidden. Felicity is traumatised. The house, too, has secrets it divulges only at night, in its moving shadows, its silent whispers, its doors that open and close at random, and the spooky little priest hole in the attic where a rotten smell seems to linger. Even Oxford itself, described as: "...a place of dust motes, vaults and arm-span alleys, of angle-poised lamps and dimmer switches, of creaking floorboards and whispers in oak-panelled libraries.” You can see why this was totally irresistible for me! If you are not a fan of the supernatural, don’t despair, because Atkin is always willing to give a perfectly rational explanation for all the things that spooked hell out of me.
Let’s also talk briefly about the unique POV the story is told in. Dee, the nanny, is being interviewed by police who are trying to establish the whereabouts of Felicity, Dee’s young charge, who has disappeared from the house whilst Dee was in London and the girl was in the care of her stepmother. As Dee tells the story of how she came to be the nanny, the full picture slowly emerges in flashbacks and confessions until .... well, that’s something you have to find out for yourself.
I really can’t divulge any more without giving things away, so let me just say that this book was a perfect for me. If you like an atmospheric setting, a creepy mystery and characters that are as mysterious as the setting itself, then you can’t go wrong with this one. Good spooky mysteries are hard to find, and it doesn’t get any better than this. I look forward to reading all the author’s previous books now!
In summary, I loved everything about this book. It read like it had been written specifically for me, with all the ingredients that make for perfect reading bliss. If you, too, are a fan of atmospheric, spooky thrillers with whispers in the night and characters who all harbour dark secrets, then this book should definitely be on your radar!
Thank you to Netgalley and Quercus Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.