I am delighted to share my review today for Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman. This is a wonderful story that mixes historical fiction with myth and mystery in a Georgian era.
My huge thanks to Harvill Secker for granting my request to read this title via NetGalley.
‘Weaves together Ancient Greek myth with suspenseful mystery and beguiling romance…utterly irresistible’ Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne
A pure pleasure of a novel set in Georgian London, where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations and romance.
Perfect for readers who loved The Binding and The Essex Serpent.
London, 1799. Dora Blake is an aspiring jewellery artist who lives with her uncle in what used to be her parents’ famed shop of antiquities. When a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, Dora is intrigued by her uncle’s suspicious behaviour and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a young antiquarian scholar. Edward sees the ancient vase as key to unlocking his academic future. Dora sees it as a chance to restore the shop to its former glory, and to escape her nefarious uncle.
But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has believed about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth she starts to realise that some mysteries are buried, and some doors are locked, for a reason.
Gorgeously atmospheric and deliciously page-turning, Pandora is a story of secrets and deception, love and fulfilment, fate and hope.
Set in 1799 London, Pandora Blake, known as Dora does not have the happiest of lives. She lives above her parents’ antiquities shop, once a place that was frequented by wealthy customers. After the death of her parents, the shop belongs to her Uncle. He is an odious man and one that is devious.
This is a mystery that I absolutely adored. Using some facts from history the author has taken some liberties with dates for the benefit of the story. All of this is explained at the end of the book and makes for interesting reading in itself.
Dora is the main focus of the story, she is a budding designer and she has her mothers talent for her artistic flair. Her parents sourced items to sell in their shop from their own excavations, legitimate and above board. When her Uncle suddenly brings in an object that he hides away from Dora, she knows he is up to something, but quite what it is will take time to discover.
This is a fabulous blend of history, fiction, fantasy and with a strong mystery to it. The setting was great as society at the time still travelled the world on their “tours”, adventures and exotic destinations that took weeks to get to are something for the upper echelons of the society of the day. This was balanced with the ordinary, working folk or those that have no homes, very little clothing and with little in the way of life. These different sides of society and the contrasts were a great part of the story and I think the author used them to great effect.
This is a mystery though, a mystery about Dora, her Uncle, a large vase and the death of her parents. Chance and fortune bring Dora into contact with several people, some helpful, some unsavoury and some just plain rude. They do however play their parts well and give a broader picture of life in London a the turn of the century as well as adding valuable details as part of the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and although some of the smells and sights might have been unpleasant to read, the author does a cracking job of describing them. This does have the feel that this is something that could be part of a series as I do think it has the potential to be expanded upon. I do hope this is the case as I would definitely be looking to read another book that features Dora.
A wonderful mystery, historical fiction and crime that I would definitely recommend.
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