Author: Karen Brooks
The Locksmith’s Daughter is an historical tale set in the 1580s that deftly weaves fact and fiction into a captivating tale. My history is, let’s be honest here, pretty appalling. School was a while ago but that’s no excuse, I think my history was always pretty average. There are times that I will get intrigued by an historic event but it’s generally pretty shortlived.
It isn’t often that I read historical novels but when I do it’s fantastic to stick around for Author’s Notes to find out a little bit more, especially about the relationship between fact and fiction.
The Locksmith’s Daughter features real historical figures and actual historic events alongside an entire story imagined by the talented Brooks.
It took me a little while to really get immersed in the story but I think that has a lot more to do with the crazy weeks I’ve been having than the story. Historical stories, I find, are generally not as light and easy to read as contemporary novels and that may simply be because of the language and the completely different world the characters inhabit.
One of my issues with the book in the early chapters was the depth of description, I found it a little overwhelming and it seemed excessive. I soon realised that level of description served a purpose and once I understood the reason it ceased to overwhelm.
Mallory Bright is the daughter of a talented London locksmith who is trying to re-establish her reputation, a feat thought too difficult by some because of her unladylike behaviours. Instead of spending her time perfecting the role of dutiful daughter and future dutiful wife she’s been in the workshop learning the tricks of the trade. She is a formidable lockpick with skills that Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster and protector of the realm, recognises as being a valuable asset to his network.
The Locksmith’s Daughter tells the tale of a turbulent time in England’s history. The accepted religion of the realm had recently seen changes which lead to great upheaval between Catholics and Protestants, a theme which has lead to great turbulence in many countries through the centuries. It is believed that the Catholics are plotting against the Queen in a bid to restore the Catholic faith and so it becomes a religious divide in which innocents are caught up in the crossfire of fanatics.
Locks, keys, secrets and lies are elements of the story just as important to the narrative. It is Mallory’s skill with locks that brings her to the attention of Walsingham and sees her become the first woman included in the network, for the very realistic reason that no-one would ever suspect a woman. That may have been true then but I certainly don’t think it’s true anymore.
Locks and lies become an integral part of Mallory’s work as a watcher but trying to keep that separate from her private life proves difficult, especially when there are things she’s still hiding to try and protect herself and her family.
Loyalty is of the utmost importance, in her work but also to Mallory personally so what happens when her loyalties are tested and she has to make a choice?
The plot of The Locksmith’s Daughter is fascinating, the historical detail is meticulous and it’s untold hours of research evident. The characters are insightful, intriguing and believable. I think this book will have immense appeal to lovers of historical drama, especially in the Elizabethan era, but also to everyone who loves a bit of mystery and suspense.
The Locksmith’s Daughter is book #41 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016.