In a world where no one can be trusted and secrets are currency, one woman stands without fear.
Mallory Bright is the only daughter of London’s master locksmith. For her there is no lock too elaborate, no secret too well kept. Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster and protector of Queen Elizabeth – the last of the Tudor monarchs – and her realm, is quick to realise Mallory’s talent and draws her into his world of intrigue, danger and deception. With her by his side, no scheme in England or abroad is safe from discovery; no plot secure.
But Mallory’s loyalty wavers when she witnesses the execution of three Jesuit priests, a punishment that doesn’t fit their crime. When Mallory discovers the identity of a Catholic spy and a conspiracy that threatens the kingdom, she has to make a choice – between her country and her heart.
Mallory, however, carries her own dark secrets and is about to learn those being kept from her – secrets that could destroy those she loves.
Once Sir Francis’s greatest asset, Mallory is fast becoming his worst threat … and everyone knows there’s only one way Sir Francis deals with those.
This is my second helping of Australian historical fiction writer Karen Brooks. Last year I read and enjoyed Karen’s first novel, The Brewers Tale. The Locksmith’s Daughter is another fascinating historical tale from Brooks that expertly weaves fact with fiction together with a compelling female protagonist.
It took me no time at all to fall into The Locksmith’s Daughter. The first person narrative style employed by the author, allows the reader to immediately develop a bond with main protagonist, Mallory Bright. Mallory is an interesting young woman of her time. She is the only daughter and child of a well known locksmith in London, Gideon Bright. Gideon knows the extent of his daughter’s talents and has not restricted her as a result. As well as being a language expert, Mallory is successful at the lock picking trade. Her talents catch the eye of one of the most important figures in the Elizabethan era, Sir Francis Walsingham. Sir Francis hires Mallory for her language aptitude, in the hope that she can teach his daughter. However, as the book progresses, Mallory’s role and life becomes much more complicated. Under Walsingham’s direction, Mallory becomes a spymaster for the Queen’s protector and is caught up in a world dominated by religious divisions and political intrigue.
I had an immediate feeling, just from reading the prologue of The Locksmith’s Daughter that it was not going to take much at all to get me hooked on this novel. It should be said that I am a long standing fan of historical fiction, in fact, only a few years ago it was the only genre I would read. The Tudor and the Elizabethan era has fascinated me for some time. When I saw that The Locksmith’s Daughter was set in an era I enjoy reading about, I jumped at the chance to read and review it. It always amazes me that I continually find more interesting historical stories that are borne from this era. The Locksmith’s Daughter is a prime example of this. Author Karen Brooks should be commended on sheer amount of research she has undertaken, in order to bring this particular story to life. She deftly combines rich historical fact, with her own imagined fictional tale and it comes off just perfectly. What I appreciated about The Locksmith’s Daughter, was the effort Brooks has put into her novel to ensure that her prose is historically accurate. Although this was tough going reading wise, I still feel this is an important ingredient to good historical fiction novel. Added to this is the specific Elizabethan period detail, such as Brooks’ insertion of key historical events, players and even dress codes. All these points combine, to give the book an air of historical authenticity. Readers will find this book delivers a great mix of themes, from drama, to romance and intrigue. The focus on the trade of lock picking, through the main characters of Mallory and Gideon Bright, was particularly enlightening to read. There were some tough moments in this book too, such as instances of domestic violence and torture scenes, which serve to highlight the true extent of women’s inferiority in this era. Brooks has cast her characters well, offsetting the main protagonist Mallory, with a superb cast of good and bad minor characters. In particular, I found the character of Caleb fascinating and his minor story thread involving homosexuality in this era, utterly absorbing.
My final word on The Locksmith’s Daughter should be directed at giving a shout out to the fantastic author’s note contained at the end of the book. It provides further detail on the inspiration for the book and provides insight into the sheer level of research that is involved in the creation of a book such as The Locksmith’s Daughter. The Locksmith’s Daughter comes highly recommended, especially for those who appreciate full bodied historical fiction, written by an Australian author who knows her craft.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty and Lace. To read the original review on the Beauty and Lace website please visit here.