When auction house valuer Jude (short for Judith) has the opportunity to investigate some books and instruments owned by an 18th-century amateur astronomer, she is intrigued. But what really gets her attention is the location of the materials: Starbrough Hall, an estate near her where sister lives and on the grounds of which her grandmother lived as a child. After her first visit to the unique and beautiful library that houses the collection, she ends up spending a few weeks in the home to do a full evaluation for a potential sale.
Early on, though, she feels a strange personal connection, aside from the fact that her great-grandfather was gamekeeper at Starbrough. She recalls the strange dreams she had as a child about being lost in the woods, and, disturbingly and oddly, her sister’s young daughter begins having the same dreams. What she feels seems related to the house and, especially, the folly that was built for stargazing.
Then Jude discovers a journal stuffed in the back of a cupboard, in which she learns about a previously unknown member of the Wickham family who lived at Starbrough Hall. The journal and other related inquiries lead her to realize she faces a number of mysteries that beg solving, not just for curiosity’s sake or for the benefit of the auction, but because they impact her own family. In the meantime, she must come to terms at last with the death of her husband, her sometimes strained relationship with her sister, and the possibility of opening up to new love.
A Place of Secrets is just the kind of novel I enjoy, with long-buried secrets and rambling old British homes replete with intrigue, loss, and shadowy figures. Rachel Hore seamlessly weaves together many plot points and mysteries and then ties them together neatly at the end. The novel hooked me from the beginning and was deeply satisfying.
Rated: Mild, for some mild language and a little violence. There is a reference to sex, but it’s oblique and off-screen.