Thursday, 25 September 2014

Turning the Stones by Debra Daley

Take a beautiful young heroine, a smidgeon of witchcraft, a buried secret and a family that will do anything to cling to its ebbing fortune, and you have the makings of a ripping yarn. Turning the Stones reminded me a bit of the novels of Robert Louis Stephenson or Samuel Richardson, with its benighted heroine, Em, and the 1760s setting.

It begins as Em wakes up in a strange bedroom, groggy and bloodied and unaware of how she got there. She discovers a vaguely familiar figure in the room, unfortunately and savagely dead, while the door is locked on the outside. Dressing quickly, Em scrambles out the window before she can be fingered for the crime, determined to make her way to France and the anonymity that might just save her life. Things don’t quite go as planned and Em must throw herself on the mercy of Captain McDonagh, a seaman with an agenda of his own.

Woven into Em’s current predicament, is the story of Em’s growing up with the Waterlands, a genteel family who saved her from the workhouse when she was tiny. Or so Mrs Waterland says. And who is the strange, witchlike Kitty Conneely, and what is she trying to achieve with her desperate incantations?

There are a wealth of secrets, plots and connivings going on to keep the reader well amused. But Debra Daley has a lovely way with words, and Em is a sharp, intelligent narrator with plenty of gumption which prevents the book from descending into melodrama. Turning the Stones is a surprisingly satisfying read and Debra Daley a new author for your watch-list.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Turning the Stones

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