written by Elsa Hart
I am a reading fiend. I can read book upon book upon book upon book. Summer holidays usually offers the opportunity where I make up for the lack of time I had during the work year. But this year was different. You would think that with a quarantine one would have more time to do what one loves. For me, this was not the case. I’ve been finding it really difficult to concentrate on reading for long periods of time. Short Stories? No problem. Poetry? Easy. But novels, no. And I’ve been crestfallen because of it. Luckily I was given an advanced copy of Elsa Hart’s The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne, and my reading drought has thus been ended.
I started reading this novel one early evening after dinner, and I was pretty my all the way through before the sun rose the next day. I could not put it down!
What magic did Elsa Hart conjure to break me of this stifled reading curse? First off, an intriguing setting London 1703 where most of the action is centred around the home of a “collector”l Barnaby Mayne who is in possession of THE most extensive collection of wonders. This collection includes everything from skeletons of exotic animals from across the world, to strange fish preserved in chemicals, to gemstones, and rare flower and much much more. Secondly, memorable characters. Our protagonist, Lady Cecily Kay, has come from Smyrna to access Baraby Maynes “plant room” in an attempt to identify the various plants she collected in her travels. There is also an assortment of other characters who live within Sir Barnaby’s walls, all of whom have a different interest in his collection. Unfortunately, upon her first night, the house Cecily’s host is murdered, but why? The man who confesses to the crime cannot possibly be capable of the atrocity? Or can he?
This novel is a wonderful murder mystery that keeps the reader captive with each secret revealed. And thirdly, I loved, loved, loved, the plot. The portrayal of the female characters, both Cecily and the character Meacan are smart and independent and interesting. I also really appreciated the fact that they were older and therefore approached situations with the wisdom and foresight that comes with age and experience instead of “learning as they go”.
I was also charmed by this novel because a couple of summers ago, I was fortunate enough to visit Dublin. While there, I explored the museum that housed an extensive collection of all sorts of wonders. This book reminded me of that visit and how entranced I was with all the wonders that I saw.
The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne went on sale yesterday! Buy it! You’ll love it! Plus its a sure-fire remedy to the frustrating curse of a reading drought.
PS… here are some pictures from the Dublin museum. These are EXACTLY how I imagined Barnaby Mayne’s collection!!!!!