In The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders, taking place in 1850, Laetitia Rodd, a 52-year-old widow of an archdeacon, works as a private investigator for her barrister brother, Fred Tyson. In a world where women are relegated to the home, Laetitia has success because no one expects her, as a woman, to act as a detective. She and Fred get hired by Sir James Calderstone to look into Helen, the woman whom his son wants to marry but whom Sir James considers inappropriate. Posing as the governess for Sir James’s daughters, Letty moves into Wishtide, Sir James’s home, to try to get to the truth.
When a blackmail letter arrives for Sir James, he agrees to pay up and sends Letty and Fred, with Letty making the transaction with “the Prince,” and just a couple days later a man is found murdered near where she paid the Prince off. Though the others identify the man as the Prince, Letty demonstrates that he cannot be the man who took the money from her, and not long after, other bodies begin to turn up.
After doing her own research to debunk the few claims of Helen about her life, Letty convinces her to come clean, both to Letty and to Charles. When Helen is discovered brutally murdered, the Scotland Yard detective, Blackbeard, promptly arrests Charles, leaving Fred with a complicated case to defend in his effort to prove Charles’s innocence. Letty finds this case to be even more complicated than she had imagined.
This book is very well written, with a nice taste of Victorian England. It focuses on the theme of love, both inappropriate and appropriate love. Further, it deals with the double standard placed on women to be totally pure and faithful to their husbands, incurring the title of a fallen woman with just one slip, while men can get away with living with a long-term mistress with no repercussions.
Anna Bentinck performs the audio version of the book. I liked the way she navigated among high class, middle class, and lower class in her portrayals. I thought she was a good selection for reading this book.
The Secrets of Wishtide was a delightful book that I thoroughly enjoyed. I truly hope that Saunders writes more of this series. I give it five stars!
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