Published by Tinder Press
Publication date – 14 July 2016
Source – review copy
“For any fan of THE SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER or GILLESPIE AND I, this a startling historical crime debut based on a true Victorian murder
Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola’s THE UNSEEING is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. Perfect for any reader of Sarah Waters or Antonia Hodgson.
‘With this intricately woven tale of trust, self-trust and deceit, Anna Mazzola brings a gritty realism to Victorian London. Beautifully written and cleverly plotted, this is a stunning debut, ranked amongst the best’ MANDA SCOTT
After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?”
Sarah Gale is set to hang. Convicted of aiding and abetting James Greenacre in the murder and dismemberment of Hannah Brown, her plea of clemency has led to Edward Fleetwood being tasked with looking into whether the conviction can be overturned. Edward goes into the investigation with measured unbias. Will it remain that way when he gets to know Sarah?
A huge amount of research went into this novel, and it shows. Whilst it is a work of fiction it is also based on true events. There is a delicacy of dealing with such matter, ensuring that figures of the past are treated with respect, whilst making the story entertaining but not titillating. It is true that none of the characters in the novel, those of them who were real people, are alive to questions how the story is portrayed by thankfully Anna Mazzola deals with the murder of Hannah Brown and the tale of Sarah Gale with respect. That respect only adds to this highly entertaining novel.
It is quite an engrossing read. The reader is soon drawn into the world of Sarah Gale, can image the dank and dismal cells of Newgate prison, surrounded by the cacophony of noise that was 19th Century London.
I’m a huge fan of historical crime fiction. When it is done well it can transport you back convincingly to another time and place. Vivid prose can bring alive a time that we will never see again or truly experience. When it is done well it entertains, educates, advises and remonstrates, painting a picture of the stark realities of a time before civil liberties, equal rights and education for all. The Unseeing is one of the books that does it right. It portrays the calls for retribution that were rife in the criminal justice system, the public’s need to see blood being shed and of the way women were treated with little or no regard, married or tarried with at the whims of men seeking status or money.
I do love books that are based on real life events or characters. If I am particularly enjoying such a novel I find myself looking up the real persona and reading about the actual events in their lives. I found myself doing so in relation to James Greenacre and Sarah Gale.
The characters are extremely well drawn. I could vividly imaging Edward Fleetwood in his chambers, Sarah Gale in her cell and all the sights and sounds of London from the horse drawn carriages to the deprivation of the slums.
This is an assured, engrossing and highly entertaining debut from an author I can see being a leading light in historical crime fiction in the future. I look forward to reading more from Anna Mazzola soon.
My thanks to Tinder Press for the advanced copy.