In a past life I used to write book reviews every week (you can find them over at alexjcall.wordpress.com) – but setting up a website, and reading about a million books a month has taken up all my time and I’ve not done any in-depth reviews for a while.
Fortunately, I’ve become much more productive AND I’ve built a new spreadsheet (you should know by now, I love a spreadsheet) which will help me not only keep track of the millions of books but also score them based on five factors:
I’ll talk more about these measures, why they’re important in and how I measure them in more depth in the future, but for now, it’s time to look at the first book to receive the Bert’s review treatment.
The Vanished Bride is the first in a new historical crime series: The Brontë Mysteries.
As the name suggests, the book focuses on the Brontë sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne – as they solve crime in the sleepy setting of Haworth in West Yorkshire.
We join the sisters in the summer of 1845 when Charlotte receives news from her friend Matilda, a governess at nearby Chester Grange. Her mistress is missing and her bedroom is covered in blood.
It is Anne who first suggests that they investigate, having read about detectorists in the paper, but it is Emily who runs with it, determined that it not be against the wit of three intelligent women to be able to solve the mystery.
The three of them set off to Chester Grange to find out more about what has happened, and from there they find themselves embroiled in a plot that only gets more befuddling the further they look into it.
Bella Ellis is the pseudonym of Rowan Coleman, author of – amongst many other things – The Summer of Impossible Things. This is meant as a compliment, but if I hadn’t known that this book was written by Coleman, I wouldn’t have been able to guess.
I’ve never read any of the Brontës before, but the three sisters are written completely in period style, as if a classic Victorian writer had written the book themselves. The dialogue and their thoughts immediately take you straight into nineteenth century life, such that you simply cease to notice it’s a historical novel at all.
The plot itself is a satisfying mystery which is resolved without resorting to hiding anything from the audience, and definitely left me wanting more from the sisters – each of whom have distinct personalities.
It is clear Ellis/Coleman has a great fondness for the Brontës and as she notes herself in the acknowledgements, while there is no evidence that the sisters solved crime in their spare time, neither is there any evidence that they didn’t.
I’m not sure the book is enough to make me want to read anything by the Brontës, but it has definitely made me want to find out more about them – perhaps even a trip to Haworth is in order to see the parsonage.
A few notes on the scoring before I reveal it –
- I favour a 1–10 scale as I think 5 doesn’t give a lot of difference.
- I’m a harsh judge – I’ve never given a book perfect marks before – truly exceptional books will get a 9.
- I’ll not review books which score less than five – it means I don’t recommend them, which means we don’t need to talk about them.
I’ve given The Vanished Bride 7.1 out of 10 – it’s available to buy now in hardback.
It’s a great book which I loved, and has definitely made my list of favourite books of this year.