Sunday HM Book Review x2: Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb and Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

Release Date:  September 12, 2017

Publisher: Atria

The Unquiet Grave is a retelling of a folk story about a ghost who appeared as a witness at the trial of the man who murdered her, through her husband.  The narrative is broken up, as far as the timeline and point of view, between the mother’s present in 1897 and the lawyer’s assistant in a 1930s asylum.  It’s based on real life and though at times I felt impatient with the various characters involved with the trial, it’s the mother, Mary Jane, and the details of her life in West Virginia and her pursuit for justice that had me engrossed.  The big story question, did she make up the part about seeing her daughter’s ghost? is not quite resolved, though her gut instincts about the murderer help to get the killer prosecuted. A truly fascinating study of domestic violence.

I’d forgotten what a powerful and compelling storyteller the author is, and I’m ready to go back to her backlist to see what I’ve missed.


 Release Date:  March 2, 2017

Publisher: Hutchison

The Birdcage Walk surprised me in a good way—I wasn’t completely sure how it would all play out, as the mystery is introduced in the present by a lonely man walking his new dog in an old cemetery. But then the story begins to unfold in the past, starting with the murder, then switching to the first person point of view of Lizzie and stays that way through the story. I found this very effective in setting up the feeling of encroaching doom.

The original story question—who is Julia Elizabeth Fawkes? is answered in unexpected ways. I couldn’t put this down. Daily life in 1790s Bristol was rendered in fascinating detail, along with the details of a land and building developer’s life against the backdrop of the revolution in France. Lizzie is eminently likable as she struggles to keep and shore up the balance of her life. I highly recommend this novel of historical and domestic mystery/suspense.  I’ll definitely be reading more of this author’s work.