I’ve been wanting to read a book by Lesley Pearse for ages, she’s penned so many books and a few have caught my attention (namely, Dead to Me); when I read the synopsis for The Woman in the Wood, I knew it would finally be my first Lesley Pearse book!
Fifteen-year-old Maisy Mitcham and her twin brother Duncan lose their mother to an asylum one night in 1960. The twins are sent to their grandmother’s country house, Nightingales. Cold and distant, she leaves them to their own devices, to explore and to grow. That is until the day Duncan doesn’t come home from the woods. With their grandmother seeming to have little interest in her grandson’s disappearance, and the police soon giving up hope, it is left to Maisy to discover the truth. And she will start with Grace Deville. A woman who lives alone in the wood, about whom rumours abound . . .
A mother in an asylum, a cold and distant grandmother, a missing child, a strange woman living alone in the wood – Pearse certainly knows the right ingredients for a historical mystery novel! As if that wasn’t enough, Pearse throws a little emotion into the story as well, while still maintaining the dark themes the blurb promises.
Interestingly, The Woman in the Wood features some very dark themes but I’d still recommend it to readers who tend to avoid novels with sinister themes/content. I say that because Pearse is clearly a skilled writer, she allows you to feel the darkness and allows it to cloud certain parts of the story without throwing you head first into it. I’d say this book is in equally parts, character-driven and plot-driven and this opens the book up to a wider reading audience. The mystery itself is very cleverly constructed and until Pearse was ready to tell, I had no clue what had befallen Duncan.
Not only is this a mystery novel centred around a missing child, Pearse delves into the realm of family ties and friendship. She delivers this theme through some brilliant characters – Maisy and Duncan are likeable children and develop a warm and loving relationship with their grandmother’s housekeeper, in comparison to their cold grandmother and their father who struggles to show affection, this book has a nice contrast of characters. When Duncan goes missing, it’s interesting to see the reaction of the different characters. While the twins may not feel especially close to their family, I didn’t dislike their gran or their dad but don’t worry, Pearse delivers on unlikeable characters too. I also liked that the novel opened with some information about the twin’s mother and how her being in an asylum featured throughout the story as it affected the twin’s actions, without Pearse needing to detail cold and disturbing accounts of their mother in an asylum, as a nearly abstract character, she played vital role in the novel.
Before I conclude this review, I thought I’d say something about the woman in the wood – easily my favourite character! That’s all you’re getting on that!
After reading this book, it is clear Pearse has incredible talent – The Woman in the Wood is a wonderful mystery that is strong enough to engage you fully in the read without needing a lightening pace, it features some strong characters and character development with a firm conclusion to the novel. I highly recommended it!