Fyneshade by Kate Griffin: An atmospheric page-turner full of chills, thrills, electrifying suspense – book review –

Fyneshade by Kate GriffinFyneshade by Kate Griffin
Fyneshade by Kate Griffin
When orphan girl Marta is cast off by her aunt to be governess at a remote mansion in deepest, darkest Derbyshire, she finds a home that is crumbling and a family mired in mystery and murky secrets.

But Marta has devilishly dark secrets – and plans – of her own and it will take more than the schemes of the housekeeper, the malign machinations of a wayward son and the walls of a forbidding, fortress-like house to get in her way.

Think favourite gothic novels like Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Henry James’ The Turn of The Screw, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and the vibes of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.... and now add Fyneshade to that list!

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Kate Griffin – whose gripping and atmospheric Kitty Peck historical crime series brought late Victorian London’s ferocious villains and foul deeds to vivid, visceral life – is back to seduce us with an unforgettable anti-heroine who packs more wickedness into her wiles than a meeting of the witches’ coven.

Filled with spine-tingling menace, a thrilling sense of foreboding and darkness, a fine line in black humour and a star player who is set to bewitch, bother and bewilder, Fyneshade is an exhilarating twist on the Victorian gothic governess trope, and a stunning piece of storytelling.

So meet Martha, known as Marta, who has been raised by her French grandmere in the small, watchful village of Croyle. Despite some claiming that her grandmere was a witch because of her ‘skill with herbs,’ Marta has always felt safe and been led by the phases of the moon.

But on the day of her beloved grandmere’s funeral, Marta discovers that she is to become governess to the ten-year-old daughter of widower Sir William Pritchard.

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Armed with grandmere’s foretelling that her fate ‘will turn on the letter P,’ separated from her lover – the local vicar’s son who is in line to inherit the family estate – and discarded by her relatives, Marta has no choice but to journey to Pritchard’s ancient house, Fyneshade, in the wilds of Derbyshire.

But all is not well at Fyneshade. Marta’s pupil, Grace, has an affliction that means she can say little and be taught nothing, and Marta takes no comfort from the secretive, guarded housekeeper and silent, malformed servants who will not meet her eye.

More interesting to Marta is that the north wing of the rambling house is chained and bolted, Sir William is mysteriously absent, and his son and heir Vaughan Pritchard is forbidden from entering the house.

Despite the housekeeper’s warnings that Vaughan – with his eyes ‘pale and cold as the ice-stopped river’ – is a danger to all around him, Marta feels the bond of ‘an affinity’ with him, recognising him as ‘a hunter.’

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And besides, Marta is no innocent to be preyed upon. Many would find much to fear in the dark shadows of Fyneshade but not Marta because they have far more to fear from her. She has plans and it will take more than a family riven by murderous secrets to stop her...

Cold, cruel, calculating, and caustically complex, Marta proves to be a truly irresistible protagonist as she weaves her wicked way through an exciting and inventive story full of menacing shadows, wild passions, and deeds so dark that they will send shockwaves coursing through your mind and body.

Harnessing all those familiar gothic tropes – a gloomy, glowering house, a cast of mute, morose servants, and a hidden evil ever ready to raise its ugly head – Griffin plays her winning hand with a convention-defying, bold and manipulative governess who is far more sinning than sinned against.

Employing her gift for the dark arts – and driven by her vaulting ambition to gain power and riches – Marta ploughs relentlessly onwards down a path of merciless destruction, leaving the innocent, the vulnerable and the unsuspecting in her wake.

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From the intriguing opening chapter to the final, heart-pounding showdown, Fyneshade is a terrific tale told with Griffin’s power and panache… an atmospheric page-turner full of chills, thrills, electrifying suspense, and a fiendishly clever twist in its devil’s tail that you won’t see coming and is guaranteed to leave you gasping for breath.

Entertainment all the way!

(Viper, hardback, £16.99)

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