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The Gaslight Stalker by David Field

512ZJVl391LIt’s London, 1888, and fear is spreading around the East End of London due to the shadowy killer who has become known as Jack the Ripper. One of the victims is known to Esther, a young, respectable Jewish seamstress and she becomes determined to aid the police in their investigations. Ably assisted by Constable Jack Enright, the pairing soon find themselves drawn in to the underbelly of the city where serious crime is an everyday occurrence. As they edge closer to identifying the killer, Esther and Jack have underestimated just how dangerous they are…

As a fan of crime fiction set in the Victorian era, particularly anything involving Jack the Ripper, I knew that this book would be right up my street before I’d even started reading.  Although it is quite a short book, David Field has evoked sounds and smells of the slums of Whitechapel and has created a true image of the horrors that existed at that time. By merging fact with fiction, he has also added an air of authenticity to the plot and I enjoyed reading about characters such as Abberline, Reid and the prostitutes we have all become so familiar with.

Esther is a fascinating character. As a Jew living in an area where antisemitism was rife, she has managed to forge out a humble career for herself – something which would have been extremely difficult for a single woman of that era. I found it interesting how she is living in a common lodging house, yet has managed to not live the life of so many other women at that time. I was pleased when the romance between her and Jack started to develop and, as someone who is not really a fan of romantic fiction, I felt that it was written in a way that was befitting of the time and that it fit in well with the plot.

For anyone who knows anything about the Whitechapel Murders, the plot will not come as a surprise, but what will is the culprit! It was a very different take on the murders and, although the more ardent Ripperologists will scoff, it must be remembered that this is a work of fiction and the ending reflects this.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first in the Esther and Jack Enright series and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, well-written read.

With thanks to Sapere Books for my copy of The Gaslight Stalker.

The Silk Weaver’s Wife by Debbie Rix

517jii+ZhdLIn the year 1704, Anastasia is planning to marry her sweetheart in secret in an attempt to escape her violent father. After her attempt is thwarted, however, she is forced to marry an older silk weaver and begin a new life, against her wishes, in Venice. Not content with swapping one abusive life for another, she plots her escape.  In 2017, another woman, Millie, is also experiencing relationship problems. When her affair with married boss Max is abruptly ended, she is happy to travel to Italy to write an article for work, where she meets, and falls in love, with Lorenzo. She soon becomes fascinated by the silk making process and is determined to identify the mysterious woman in a portrait she has seen.

I admit that I did not know what to expect when I started to read this book as romantic fiction is a genre out of my comfort zone. I do enjoy dual time-frame books, however, and I was intrigued by the mystery concerning the subject of the painting. When I began to read, I started to have reservations as Millie’s story did not really grab me. A soon as Anastasia’s story kicked in, though, I found myself reading at a much quicker pace, desperate to know how she would escape from her husband. As the book progressed, and there began to be cross-overs between the two time-frames, I started to enjoy Millie’s story much more and was keen to know how their respective stories would end.

Of the two main characters, Anastasia was, by far, my favourite: a strong woman who overcame her fears and tragedies to achieve a fulfilling and rewarding life. Millie, on the other hand, I wanted to shake at times for allowing Max to railroad her into decisions that she did not really want to make. I found it interesting that the more independent woman was the one from the eighteenth century, a time when women had fewer rights than their twenty-first century counterparts.

It is obvious that the author has done a tremendous amount of research to merge fact with fiction, providing a fantastic historical account of the silk trade in eighteenth century Italy. Debbie Rix has painted an evocative picture of the book’s locations, whether it be Venice, Amsterdam or Spitalfields and truly transports you back to the eighteenth century.

For any fans of historical fiction or, indeed, any Italophiles, The Silk Weaver’s Wife is a great read.

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my copy.

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