Hidden at the heart of the Harper family, veiled in secrets, is a mystery waiting to be solved. A skilfully plotted novel with intriguing characters, crime, cats and a brother and sister unaware of what they will expose when they start peeling back the layers.
Set in south-east England around 2005, Hilda Harper tramps across the North Kent marshland on a summer’s evening. She is mulling over an unusual meeting she had earlier in the day. A woman named Nicky had knocked at her door and revealed some astounding news. This unexpected visit impels Hilda to explore the truth about her family’s past.
How well did she know her father? What was the cause of her mother’s death? Is Nicky really who she says?
The story is told through the three main characters, Hilda, Dunstan and Nicky, each with their own chapters and different points of view. Hilda and her younger brother, Dunstan, approach their deceased parents anomalous behaviour in varied ways. The plot revolves around their strict, controlling father Dr Nicolas Harper and their religious mother Violet who suffered from a cardiac disorder.
Dunstan believes his father could do no wrong but Hilda couldn’t wait to leave home and start rescuing abandoned cats and kittens. Dunstan says “My sister Hilda is, to put it kindly, rather eccentric.” I agree, but she is a great character. I think Dunstan has way more hang-ups to overcome, courtesy of his disenchanted upbringing.
Touching on mental issues, domestic bullying and unsettled memories, there comes a time when the scales dip towards a desperate action. Poor Dunstan goes off the rails. A cliff-hanger tempted me to untap my bookmark and keep reading into the night. I followed the clever twists and turns until I arrived at two startling discoveries. One more shocking than the other.
Family secrets can be destructive, changing the course of lives.
For me, the sense-of-place is strong and characters are easily envisaged. Nicky is quite lively yet generally I felt a genteel vibe and imagine the setting would work equally well further back in time. I liked the medical details, and Hilda’s love of cats; her rescue of tiny Magic echoes author Jennifer Barraclough’s support for animal welfare.
The book title is taken from “The Yew Tree” poem by Valerie Dohren, but I will close with a quote from Hilda “I need a walk to clear my troubled mind, so after lunch I put on my oilskins and gumboots and set off over the desolate marshland towards the Thames. It is a cool and misty day with a light rain falling and there are no other people about, just a few sheep and gypsy ponies.” A perfect remedy.
Top marks for “You Yet Shall Die” an absorbing crime and mystery story without the gory bits.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Formerly a medical doctor in England, Jennifer Barraclough now lives in New Zealand and writes novels, non-fiction books and a blog. Jennifer is a cat owner and Magic has a cameo in her latest book You Yet Shall Die a novel in the “domestic noir” genre, set in the North Kent marshes near her childhood home.
After moving to her husband’s native New Zealand in 2000, Jennifer studied natural healing, and ran a Bach flower practice for ten years. Writing is her main occupation now but her other interests include animal welfare activities, choral singing, and visiting the local beaches and cafés.
My thanks to the author for a complimentary copy of this book. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review “You Yet Shall Die”—GBW.
FOR LOVERS OF CATS AND ILLUSTRATIONS – GUTENBERG CAT FILE
The Project Gutenberg eBook of “Our Cats and All About Them” by Harrison Weir (1892) a well researched and remarkable volume. Full Title: “Our Cats and All About Them. Their Varieties, Habits, and Management; and for Show, the Standard of Excellence and Beauty; Described and Pictured”.