The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans

the fourteenth letter

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Fourteenth Letter today.  The Fourteenth Letter was published in hardback and digital formats in April, and will be published in paperback on 21 September.

A mysterious keepsake, a murdered bride, a legacy of secrets…

One balmy June evening in 1881, Phoebe Stanbury stands before the guests at her engagement party: this is her moment, when she will join the renowned Raycraft family and ascend to polite society.

As she takes her fiancé’s hand, a stranger holding a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl’s life. Amid the chaos, he turns to her aristocratic groom and mouths: ‘I promised I would save you.’

The following morning, just a few miles away, timid young legal clerk William Lamb meets a reclusive client. He finds the old man terrified and in desperate need of aid: William must keep safe a small casket of yellowing papers, and deliver an enigmatic message: The Finder knows.

I was immediately taken with the premise of The Fourteenth Letter, and jumped at the chance to read and review this title on my blog.  Straddling both the historical fiction and police procedural genres, perhaps with the smallest hint of science fiction thrown in, this is a novel that defies easy categorisation, but if it sounds like an odd mix, don’t let that put you off, because this is an interesting mystery, and if I guessed a few of the plot twists (of which there were many), there were others that took me by surprise.

I’m not going to go into the plot in any detail, as this is a novel that moves along at a fast pace – there’s always something happening, and I think that this novel’s secrets are best discovered as you’re reading it.  Needless to say, a young woman murdered at her engagement party, cryptic messages – it’s all very intriguing, and delivers upon its promise of strange and secretive goings-on, and if there were a couple of aspects that didn’t appeal to me personally, it was still a great deal of fun to read.

The novel is told from multiple points of view. This helps to keep the pace high, as there is always something going on, some new clue being revealed, and the reader gets an insight into both sides of the story.  And there is a good side and a bad side in this novel, although they aren’t particularly clear cut, with a few characters on both sides muddying the waters between right and wrong.  Whilst the multiple perspectives did help to keep the pace up, it did also mean that I didn’t feel particularly attached to any of the characters.  This does sometimes happen when there are a large cast of characters, and whilst this isn’t always an issue, I think that I would have liked someone to root for here.

The characters are a bit of a strange bunch, and I have to admit that I didn’t like William – who is as close to a central character as we get – at all.  His character does (gradually) develop as the novel progresses, but he didn’t redeem himself enough for me to change my opinion of him.  My favourite characters were Harry, the detective investigating Phoebe’s murder, and Savannah, who becomes unwillingly caught up in William’s troubles.  Harry is perceived by his colleagues as being a little slow and easily distracted, and yet to me it seemed that he had extraordinary attention to detail, and what was considered inattention was rather him mulling over the facts and seeking out those missing details to solve the crime.  In contrast, Savannah is a gun-toting American on the run, and stands out like a sore thumb in late nineteenth century London.  She’s all feisty attitude, and she adds a lot of the excitement into the novel.  That said, I did feel that there were elements to Savannah’s past that were hinted at, but never fully revealed, which was a little frustrating.

My main issue with the novel was that some elements of the plot just didn’t work for me personally.  Whilst it moves quickly, there were a few things that happened that didn’t really make sense, and seemed all too convenient when I think that a more plausible option was available.  That’s just my personal opinion, however, and overall, this is still a fun read.

Many thanks to Ella Bowman for providing a copy for review, and for inviting me to join the blog tour.  The Fourteenth Letter will be published in paperback on 21 September by Sphere.

Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour:

The Fourteenth Letter - Blog Tour

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7 thoughts on “The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans

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