As she sits in her Bloomsbury home with her two pet birds, elderly Harriet Baxter sets out to relate the story of her friendship, nearly four decades gone, with Ned Gillespie - a talented artist who took his own life at the age of thirty-six, never having achieved the fame and recognition that Harriet maintains he deserved.
In 1888, the young art-loving Harriet arrives in Glasgow at the time of the International Exhibition. There she befriends the Gillespie family and soon becomes a fixture in their lives. But when tragedy strikes in the form of a kidnapping and the notorious criminal trial that follows it, the promise and certainty of her new world rapidly spiral into mystery and deception.
Would it be strange if I started off this review by saying I hope nobody reads past this sentence? That I would prefer it if you were to just close your browsing window and go on to something else. I know that my request may seem a bit strange, but I assure you that I have my reasons. The first being is that I really have no frickin clue on how to write a review on this one, without spoiling some of the plot points for you. I can't describe how I felt about the story and it's characters, without saying why I felt that way. I guess that wouldn't be a problem for you if you were so inclined to pass up on this book, which I must say would be a big mistake. What I want every single human being on the face of the globe to do is go out, as fast as you can, and get a hold of this one for yourself.
Now if you are still reading this, don't say I didn't warn you about giving maybe a little too much away in my review. One other little warning I feel I should get off my chest would be that one you start this one, you will not be able to let it go. It will get it's manicured talons underneath your skin and probe your nerve endings to pick it up, time after time, until your optic nerves have rested after absorbing every last word.
What can I say about our "heroine" of the piece, Harriet Baxter? I could say she has a gift for words. I could even say that she is extraordinary in her storytelling capability. I may even mention that she is secure within herself and knows exactly how you and I should see her. After all, I'm pretty darn sure it's the way she sees herself as well. Now Harriet would tell you that she is a compassionate human being who just wants the best for those around her. I think she may even mention selfless, kind, a good friend, and she may even bring up that she misses having a father figure in her life. Now you may only get that last part out of her if she is in a sentimental mood.
What I'm pretty sure Harriet won't mention is that she's delusional, egotistical, manipulative, cunning, has the intelligence of a sociopath, and for all intensive purposes is probably a murderess (though indirectly.) Now does that make Harriet a bad person? I would have to say yes. What I would also have to say is that I loved every minute spent in her company. I think in the back of her head, she knows exactly what kind of person she is, and she loves it. She is, despite everything bad she has ever done, one of the coolest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet and I would love to hang out with her. I have never loved such a horrible person more than I do her.
Now I know that Harriet is the one narrating this story and that there is no way she would have said of the comments I included in the last paragraph. Instead, and I think against her will, she sprinkles the clues to her true personality throughout the book. For every once in a while when Harriet is describing an encounter with another character or her behavior in a particular situation, you get the impression that not everything is what she's saying it is. Harriet herself has no problem mentioning a negative reaction she gets from someone, but she has her own spin on it. Sadly for her, all those incidents end up adding up. It doesn't take long to realize that Harriet isn't being as truthful as she could be.
Now I'm not going to get into the specifics of the story, because I do want to leave a little mystery. Nobody wants the full monty before they actually get to experience that pleasure for themselves. What I will say though is that Harriet and the Gillespies go through some rather trying times and not single one of them walks away unscathed. What I will also say is that there is not a single character that I don't love and want to spend more time with.
Now I do want to say one more thing about the review itself. I tried my best to keep the details out but there was no way for me to talk about Harriet and my feelings towards her without saying the why. I started, erased, started, erased more times than I could count when I first sat down to type this up. I tried to balance the information I gave you and I hope it's not too much. After reading this far, I'm not so sure I did a great job in the articulation of my feelings, but I hope that I presented it in a way that makes you want to go to the bookstore as soon as possible to get this one for yourself. I promise you won't regret it.
I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book. Please visit the tour page for other reviews.