“Broadstairs, Kent, 1850. Part sea-bathing resort, part fishing village, this is a place where people come to take the air, and where they come to hide…”
Edmund Steele, a nice sort of chap, has fled a failed love affair and arrives at the Parsonage to stay with Theo Hallam. Delphine Beck and her cousin, Julia, have left their London home to save money. The two ladies come originally from New York and Delphine has been exiled by her wealthy family, following a scandal. Miss Warings is an older lady, visiting with her niece, the beautiful Alba. Mr Ralph Benedict is an artist, who has housed his family in a nearby town so he has freedom to work. Mrs Quillian is Theo’s aunt; who establishes herself at the Albion Hotel and then attempts to make the various visitors into a little group, with whom she can arrange pleasant trips. Echoing Separate Tables with the mysterious seaside hotel, the sounds of the ferocious waves, and well-to-do guests harbouring deep, dark secrets, what could possibly go wrong? That is, until a girls body is found on the beach with a mysterious message etched in the sand beneath her, and, although it seems suspicious, the local doctor is quick to dismiss her death as an accident. But more bodies are found – young girls seem to wander into the sea. Spooked by this strange incident, the locals turn against the visitors, whom they accuse of bringing with them bad luck. Can this group of outsiders unite to help solve the murders?
The Widow’s Confession has kicked off a great year for historical fiction (The Hourglass Factory – a tale of suffragettes and the circus – is next on my list). Sophia Tobin’s book balances the right amount of mystery to keep the plot moving. And speaking as someone who tends to shy away from mystery stories, she held my attention throughout. The atmospheric blend of a seaside resort out of season and the suspicion of murder lingering over the community conspires to give even the most skeptical of readers a chill down their spine.