Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

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Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A young bride seeks to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her sister, but is met with a conspiracy of silence, in this historical story set in exotic Alexandria.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 432 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Sphere
ISBN: 9780751565034

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Young bride Olivia Sheldon finds returning to her childhood home in Egypt a bitter-sweet experience. On the one hand, she has been reunited with her estranged sister Clara, and the pair have formed a deep and loving bond. On the other, she has an unhappy marriage to her domineering husband Alistair, who only married her to spite Clara, who had refused him previously. Life with the sadistic Alistair is unbearable, with Olivia subjected to horrific abuse at his hands, daily. As a lady with no means of supporting herself, Olivia seems trapped without any means of escape, only finding solace in the company of her sister and friends. But when her dear sister goes mysteriously missing in the bustling streets of Alexandria, it is up to Olivia to try and solve the mystery of her disappearance before it is too late.

Beneath a Burning Sky is an historical mystery novel set against an exotic Egyptian backdrop. Olivia works hard to piece together the clues of Clara's disappearance but it soon becomes clear that everyone has something to hide and buried secrets will not reveal themselves willingly. Her investigations uncover a web of deceit that permeates the whole city, from the most affluent to the poorest members of society.

Ashcroft has researched the time period and geography well, and the result is a realistic and engrossing depiction of life in Egypt in the late 1800s. She has managed to capture the atmosphere perfectly, whether it is a decadent garden where finely-dressed ladies sit on the lawns supping a cool beverage; or the dusty, sticky, stinking backstreets of the slums, where the sun beats down relentlessly on the local citizens. She expertly juxtaposes the contrasting situations of the rich and poor, but also the lives of women and men; with women having very few rights, whatever their social standing.

The characters are all well written. Olivia is a feisty lady who constantly pushes against the social constraints that keep her trapped. Alistair in contrast, is a thoroughly evil character, who is bound to stir up strong emotions in the reader. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot, and one in particular surprised me so much that I had to read the page again to let it sink in. It was brilliantly done and I love those sort of surprises that you just don't see coming and hit you like a ton of bricks when they do; its a mark of good storytelling.

Its hard to believe that this is the debut novel from this talented author; she comes across as so proficient, experienced and capable. I'm excited to see what she has in store for us next; I'd love to see what happens to the characters of Olivia and hope that we will rejoin her story at some point in the future. Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Mysterious Alexandria is a popular setting for novels. If you'd like to extend your stay in Egypt a little longer, The Exodus Quest by Will Adams or Alexandria by Lindsey Davis should keep you entertained.

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Buy Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Beneath a Burning Sky by Jenny Ashcroft at


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