A Dickensian murder mystery. A brutal modern-day gang. Can Helen Oddfellow outwit an old enemy – or will she be his next victim?
When literary researcher Helen Oddfellow finds an old newspaper cutting in an antiquarian bookshop, she uncovers a mystery dating back 200 years. Her quest to find the real woman behind one of Charles Dickens’ best-loved characters takes an unexpected turn, when the bookshop owner goes missing.
Helen befriends his distraught teenage daughter as they try to find the missing man. But the marshes of north Kent are home to a criminal gang more brutal than anything Dickens imagined. Murky money, royal connections and desperate people link the past with the present. But it’s the unexpected return of an old enemy that puts Helen herself in mortal peril.
FOLLY DITCH is latest in the series of mysteries featuring literary sleuth and London tour guide Helen Oddfellow.
Long-listed for the Stockholm Writers’ Festival 2022 First 5 Pages prize.
Anna Sayburn Lane is a writer, editor and journalist. She lives on the Kent coast, at Deal.
Anna has published award-winning short stories and was picked as a Crime in the Spotlight new author at the 2019 Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival. Her 2018 debut novel Unlawful Things was shortlisted for the Virago New Crime Writer award.
My thoughts: while I continue to have mixed feelings about Charles Dickens (DM me on Twitter if you’d like to hear the rant), I did enjoy this book, which revolves around a mysterious reference to a Nancy Love – could she be the inspiration for Oliver Twist‘s doomed character and if so, what could so many people want with a letter she might have written and given to a child Dickens to deliver? As Helen Oddfellow, a literature scholar, delves into the life of Nancy, she’s caught up in a terrible dark conspiracy that costs the lives of innocents and links her to a gang of people traffickers.
Aided by her journalist friend Nick, and a young woman called Wiz, she fights back and they might just bring down a right wing group while they’re at it.
Set mostly in Kent, where Dickens lived at various periods in his life, and referencing at least two of his books at various points, you don’t have to know much about him to enjoy this, or the secrets Helen unwittingly discovers.
Lots of fun and I do love a literary conspiracy, so I’m off to check out the rest of this series, apparently my old fave Kit Marlowe pops up in at least one. And if you subscribe to the author’s newsletter (link to website above) you get a free book.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.