There was a man standing in the alcove that led out onto the Golden Gallery’s walkway. His attention was fixed on the explosion, which meant he hadn’t seen her yet. At first she thought he was a fire watcher, stationed up the top of St Paul’s to protect it from burning. But, no, this man was a twilight visitor – a man of the dead, not the living – she could tell by his ashen hue. Everything was a muted shade in her world; it was how you could tell the living world from the the world of the dead.
It is 1940 and Flossie Birdwhistle is the turnkey at London’s Highgate Cemetery, charged with keeping the souls that rest there at peace. When London is subject to enemy bombardment every night, this is an even more difficult task than usual. During one raid, when Flossie sets out to fulfill the request of one of her charges, she sees something surprising: a German soldier, who, though as dead as she is, seems to have abilities and interests from the other side of the grave. It is up to Flossie, and her friends, the turnkeys of London’s other cemeteries, to figure what he is up to, and how to stop him.
The Turnkey is an intriguing novel set in the midst of the second world war, populated with ghostly characters, as well as a handful of those still living. the concept of the dead being looked after by one of their own, and of them still carng for the world beyond the grave is appealing, and history lovers will enjoy seeing World War Two London and Germany from a very different angle.
The Turnkey, by Allison Rushby
Walker Books, 2017
But I did, I did! There was no way I was letting go of it. It was my scrapbook, my scrapbook about the little princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose – the one I’d been named after. I’d been keeping it for years, cutting out and sticking in pictures of the little princesses and all their doings from magazines and newspapers. It was very special to me, that scrapbook, and I wasn’t letting go of it for anything.
It was the reason I was still alive.
It is 1940, and Margaret Rose lives in London, far away from her cousin Lizzie in Australia. But when Margaret Rose’s family home is destroyed in an air raid she finds herself bound for Australia on a ship. Lizzie’s family are happy to take Margaret Rose in, but Lizzie isn’t so sure. Her cousin is getting all the attention, and Lizzie’s life is changed by sharing her bedroom and her classmates.
The war takes a little longer to reach Townsville, in Australia’s far north,and Mrgaret Rose is safer there. But as the war rolls on, it also draws closer to Australia, and both girls share the realities of war time life.
Lizzie and Margaret Rose is a story of war, of family and friendship set both in London and in Townsville, as well as on the ship travelling between the two countries. Told in the alternating first person voices of the ten and eleven year old cousins, it provides an inside look at the effects of war, and particularly World War 2, on children and on day to day life.
While thoroughly researched and complemented with back of book notes, the story is front and center rather than being used to string together lots of facts,, making it really satisfying.
Lizzie and Margaret Rose, by Pamla Rushby
Omnibus Books, 2016
You don’t think it a rather provocative arrangement?’ the clergyman began, then broke off, frowning. He had been interrupted by a noise that made Philo’s hair stand on end.
It sounded like a wolf’s howl. Long and drawn-out, it echoed off the high brick walls that penned them in, finishing on a growling quaver.
It seemed to be coming from behind them.
Theophilus Grey is a linkboy – a boy who guides paying customers home, or across town, after dark falls on London streets. It’s the work he’s been doing for as long as he can remember, and along the way he has learnt the power of that memory. The things he sees, the conversations he hears and the people who have them, can prove to be useful, so he watches and listens, remembering everything he can.
When Philo is asked to work as a spy to gather intelligence against the Jacobites, who are plotting to overthrow King George, he has to draw on all his resources. Even then, he seems to be collecting enemies and drawing attention to himself far more than is comfortable. As the tensions mounts, Philo has to questions where his loyalties should really lie.
Theophilus Grey and the Traitor’s Mask is the second novel featuring Philo and his friends – fellow linkboys, hawkers, actors and more. Set in 1750s England, it is a satisfying blend of adventure and history, likely to appeal to upper primary readers.
Theophilus Grey and the Traitor’s Mask, by Catherine Jinks
Allen & Unwin, 2916
Thumb and forefinger feeling towards tiny dimpled edges, she grasped another shining glass bead, a glittering silvery grey button of mercury. Separating it from the hundreds of others nestled inside the small wooden work tray, Aimee withdrew the bead, brought it close to her face and peered at the pinprick of light.
In Normandy, in 1891, Aimee sews beads to make a collar for her wedding, a wedding arranged by her father in the hope of saving his estate from ruin. In London in 2015, auctioneer and lover of beautiful things, Maggie, finds the aged collar at the bottom of a box of pieces of lace and fabric she has won cheaply at auction. Wondering at its past, Maggie cleans it, and shows it off during a television appearance, and is soon contacted by a stranger sure that she has a connection to the piece. As Maggie tries to trace the history of the collar and its previous owners, she also struggles with her own past and the way it impacts her present. Is the collar leading her towards making the biggest mistake of her life – or is something more simple at play?
Precious Things is a novel about family and about love, spanning three centuries and touching on multiple owners of the mysterious collar. Maggie’s’ contemporary tale is interspersed with glimpses of the collar’s past, and the lives of the women who have worn it, though it is chiefly Maggie’s’ story. Maggie is trying to balance a demanding job in an auction house with a marriage which has always been steady, but is now under pressure as her husband Tim copes with an equally stressful job. The couple’s young daughter Pearl and Tim’s troubled teen daughter Stella add to the mix, as do Maggie’s difficult mother and her old friend Kate.
The collar’s past is gradually unravelled, but it seems that Kate’s marriage is in danger of going the same way.
Precious Things, by Kelly Doust
Harper Collins, 2016
Ro couldn’t help herself. However rude it might be, she continued to stare, then reached out and touched the girl on the arm. “You are real,” she said quietly. “It was just…I was wondering if this was some kind of odd dream.”
“Perhaps it is,” Thalia said quite calmly. “Though I’ve never had a dream before where I’ve been told I’m a triplet and it ha turned out only a few minutes later to be true.” She shot a look at her brother’s retreating back.
For seventeen years Thalia, Erato and Clio have lived with their adoptive families, each girl unaware that she is one of a set of triplets, separated after their mother died in childbirth. Now they have been reunited by their aunt, Hestia, who believes they have been wrongly denied their mother’s estate. She wants the girls to work together to claim what is rightfully theirs. But working together is not easy for three girls who have just met, and harder still when each has a reason for needing the inheritance.
As they get to know their new-found aunt, and each other, the girls struggle to figure out who they can trust. It seems they can’t even trust each other.
The Heiresses is an intriguing story of family, betrayal and more, with an element of mystery and loads of tension. Suitable for a new adult and adult audience,and set in 1925 London, there is lots to like about the story and its three diverse, feisty heroines.
The Heiresses, by Allison Rushby
Pan Macmillan , 2013
Available from good bookstores or online.
Within the snug, still house, a womb of Axminster and Liberty against an uncertain world, something awful had exploded in just this one room…
“My God!” Kathy muttered under her breath, and moved forward towards the remains of Angela Hannaford.
Kathy Kolla is delighted to finally be starting her dream job, working alongside DCI Brock in the Serious Crime Division at New Scotland Yard. Her first case, though, is a perplexing one. A young woman has been brutally slain, with no apparent motive and few clues. When Kathy finds a tenuous link yo a local amateur dramatic group, she follows it, finding herself drawn into their rank. But as the date of their next performance draws closer, finding the killer in time to stop another murder is difficult, with a complex web of secrets concealing the truth.
All My Enemies is one of the earlier titles from the popular Brock and Kolla series, newly re-released in Australia. For those who have read later titles, this one provides some background insight into characters and relationships, whilst also presenting a gripping mystery. Like all the titles in the series, this one stands alone, but is likely to entice lovers of crime fiction to seek out others.
All My Enemies, by Barry Maitland
Allen & Unwin, 2012
Available from good bookstores or online.