A Place of Secrets (by Rachel Hore)

I've read a couple of other books by Rachel Hore, and enjoyed them, so I was very pleased when I saw this for a euro at a church bookstall - particularly since it was only published about six months ago.

It's the story of Jude, a young woman who has suffered some tragedy in her life, and who has often been plagued with a strange dream, oddly realistic, where she is running through the woods searching for her mother. Even odder, her young niece Summer seems to be having the same dream...

Jude is a valuer of antiquities, and takes on a job at a stately home near where her sister and Summer live. She goes to examine and value a collection of journals and books about astronomy, and finds herself becoming friendly with the family, particularly in rapport with the grandmother, who is devastated that this collection will have to be sold in order for the roof to be mended.

Jude is also interested in a cottage where her grandmother - who has plenty of secrets - used to live, and in a folly that looks as if it might be dangerous, and has something of an atmosphere. And she's very drawn to a young man who lives in the cottage, and sometimes works in the folly.

The relationships are complex, but I felt that the people were mostly believable, and didn't have much problem distinguishing them. Jude was a sympathetic person whom I warmed to, which meant that I felt some of her suspense; it was not really a good book to be reading before going to sleep.

The biggest problem with this book is that there are an incredible number of coincidences... both in what Jude discovers and in the way people turn up out of the blue, and are found to have an important part to play in the story. I had to suspend belief several times; I don't mind doing so in a fantasy novel, but it seems odd to have to do so in something set in 21st century England.

I could accept the slightly surreal generational dreams and their eventual explanation, which was nicely done; but the appearance of a jewel, a young man, and a torn journal (amongst others) added up to way too many coincidences.

Still, it was written in a very readable style, and on the whole I enjoyed it very much. Recommended, so long as you don't object to the coincidences and an ultra-tidy ending.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 12th April 2011

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