Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers
|Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers|
|Reviewer: JY Saville|
|Summary: Widowed and retired doesn't mean put out to grass, as feisty sisters Hester and Harriet prove when faced with intrigue and injustice. This cosy thriller will appeal to readers who want to be on the edge of their seats while knowing deep down that it will all turn out right in time for tea.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: March 2016|
|Publisher: Allen and Unwin|
|External links: Author's website|
Hester and Harriet are two respectable widowed sisters in their sixties, living a life of pleasant routine in their cottage in a quiet village. Known to all their neighbours, they play bridge, do good turns, and in short are everything two ladies of their age and station should be. It's no surprise, then, that their first thought upon seeing a frightened young woman with a baby in a disused bus shelter on Christmas morning is to take her home and feed her. But not everyone in the world, or even in their village, has such good intentions. Life is about to get terribly complicated.
This debut novel was an engaging read, truly tense at times, and the main characters Hester and Harriet were delightful. Middle-class wine snobs they may be, but they show a depth of feeling for those less fortunate than themselves, and moreover a determination to do something about it. The cosiness and understated wealth of the setting, and particularly the fact that all but the final chapter takes place in that season of family and parties between Christmas and New Year, contrast well with the sinister turn of events as unsavoury men start looking for their new lodger Daria.
At first the book reminded me a little of the Maggie Smith and Judi Dench film Ladies in Lavender, in which two grey-haired spinster sisters turn their respectable 1930s lives upside down by taking in a half-drowned young man who doesn't speak English. There the similarity ends, however, as these are modern women in modern England, with immigration laws, village gossip and Facebook to contend with. Not to mention Ben, the newly-arrived teenage nephew they're not sure how to relate to.
I liked the way the sisters got stuck in and tried to sort the situation out, despite their uncertainty (both with their nephew and the mysterious Daria). The light humour of their inexperience with babies and the difficulties of car seats, and the battle against creeping age as throbbing corns and tired legs work against them worked well. With the possible exception of Harriet's driving they are shown as capable women, a force to be reckoned with and not simply a couple of nice old ladies that need looking after. Similarly their friend the local tramp, older than them, is portrayed as the master of his own destiny not a pitiable old man, and their seemingly perfect village is shown to have its dark side.
My only minor quibbles with the novel were the similarity of the sisters' names (I'm easily confused when I'm reading brief snatches of the book when I can fit it in), and perhaps a weakness to Ben's reasons for claiming sanctuary – a hint early on at problems with friends never seems to go anywhere.
Hilary Spiers is writing a second novel featuring Harriet and Hester, and I for one will be looking out for its arrival. In the meantime, though she's actively seeking adventures (unlike Hester and Harriet), private detective Agatha Raisin might appeal to you, in novels such as Agatha Raisin: There Goes The Bride by M C Beaton.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers at Amazon.com.
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