- published by Simon & Schuster 2014
- ISBN 978-1-47112-808-0
- 420 pages
- source: my local library
The year is 1792 and it's winter in Berkeley Square. As the city sleeps, the night-watchman keeps a cautious eye over the streets, and another eye in the back doors of the great and the good. Then one fateful night he comes across the body of Pierre Renard, the eponymous silversmith, lying dead, his throat cut and his valuables missing. It could be common theft, committed by one of the many villains who stalk the square, but as news of the murder spreads, it soon becomes clear that Renard had more than a few enemies, all with their own secrets to hide.
At the centre of this web is Mary, the silversmith's wife. Ostensibly theirs was an excellent pairing, but behind closed doors their relationship was a dark and at times sadistic one and when we meet her, Mary is withdrawn and weak, haunted by her past and near-mad with guilt. Will she attain the redemption she seeks and what, exactly, does she need redemption for...? Rich, intricate and beautifully told, this is a story of murder, love and buried secrets.
The year is 1792, there is Revolution in France, King Louis XVI is beheaded, and in Berkeley Square London the French silversmith, Pierre Renard, is found with his throat slit. The London middle class is expecting Republicanism to skip over the English Channel at any moment.
The narrative is told in two streams. The immediate present is actually 1793 and Pierre Renard has been dead a number of months. His will reveals a vindictive side to his nature that was not obvious during his life. Each chapter begins with an extract from a secret diary that Pierre Renard kept from April to October 1792. In it the reader learns of his disdain for his wife Mary, and of his passion for the wife of one of his clients. The remainder of each chapter relates to the main plot strand which is the search for the truth about who killed Pierre Renard.
With a historical novel, I always look to see how well the novel tells us of the historical background. There was much more that THE SILVERSMITH'S WIFE could have done. I felt that it relied very heavily on knowledge I already had, while there were rather oblique references to the period, which will leave some readers puzzled. I was more comfortable with the sense of social history that it conveyed.
So the novel does well enough as a murder mystery, but not so well in an historical sense.
My rating: 4.4