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Thursday, 30 October 2014

‘The Goddess and the Thief’ by Essie Fox

Published by Orion,
5 December 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-4619-3

Overcome by the rigours of the Indian climate, Alice Willoughby's mother died soon after her birth. Her father was often away from home and Alice was brought up by her adoring ayah, Mini, until the day her father decided to wrench her away from the land of her birth and take her back to live in England.

Back in Victorian England, Alice's father placed her in the care of her late mother's sister while he returned to India. Alice's Aunt Mercy is a strange, harsh woman, ruled by anger, envy and her addiction to opium. When Alice's father dies in India, Alice is left totally under Mercy's cruel domination. Mercy augments her income by working as a fake medium and is vindictively jealous when she realises that Alice truly possesses the gift of communicating with the dead that Mercy craves. Into this dangerous situation comes Lucian Tilsbury, who had known Alice's father in India. Despite a disfiguring scar on one side of his face, Tilsbury is a handsome, compelling man, who swiftly has Mercy under his control. However, although he uses and manipulates Mercy, it is Alice that he wants.

At the end of the Anglo-Sikh wars the priceless and sacred jewel, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, had been claimed by Britain and cut down to make a brooch for Queen Victoria. Tilsbury draws Mercy and Alice into a dangerous plot to steal the diamond and return it to India. Alice spends her life drugged, abused and tortured by visions of the after life and she is desperate to escape her captors and achieve safety and independence and the control of her own life.

The bulk of the story is told in the First Person narration of the central character, Alice, and, as she spends a large part of the time drugged and receiving visitations from the dead, this results in a somewhat hallucinogenic and bewildering reading experience, which, at the same time is compelling. Short narratives from other characters allow the reader to understand aspects of the story that Alice does not have access to, including a truly stunning revelation on the final page.

This is a fascinating, fast-paced, beautifully written book and well worth reading.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Essie Fox was born and raised in Herefordshire, after studying English Literature at Sheffield University, Essie moved to London, first to work for the Telegraph Sunday Magazine and then for the book publishers, George, Allen & Unwin. A change of career when a daughter was born saw Essie become an illustrator - a passion that lasted twenty years until she began to write instead. She now writes Gothic Victorian novels. The Somnambulist, Elijah's Mermaid, and her latest, The Goddess and the Thief, are published by Orion Books.
Essie now divides her time between Bow in East London and Windsor - from where she pursues her writing career.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

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