Summer of Secrets by Cora Harrison

‘I blame my new-found profession for my next move.’

August 1856, Knebworth House, Hertfordshire.  Charles Dickens and his protégé Wilkie Collins are spending summer at the home of Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  A charity performance of ‘The Lady of Lyon’, one of Lord Edward’s most successful plays is planned.  But disaster strikes at the dress rehearsal when a man is shot dead in the centre of the stage.  Who shot him and why?

Wilkie Collins, our narrator, and Charles Dickens investigate.  They quickly find that nothing is straightforward.  The dead man was standing in for Lord Edward: was he shot by mistake?  Lord Edward’s estranged wife Lady Rosina is present (and suspected) but the more Collins and Dickens dig, the more possible suspects and motives they uncover.  Knebworth House is full of secrets, at least twenty years of secrets.

This is a wonderful mystery, full of red herrings and possibilities.  I now need to seek out the first two in this series.  While I have read quite a few of Ms Harrison’s other novels, I have not previously encountered this series. Recommended.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Severn House Publishers for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith