First Lines: "Haworth Parsonage, December 1851. Drawing her shawl a little closer around her, Charlotte adjusted her writing slope once more and dipped the nib of her pen back into the ink, her head bent low, nose just above the paper."
Summary: Charlotte is remembering back to a time, a few years ago, when her sisters and brother were living at the parsonage. As the sisters are sitting around one evening, Branwell, brother to Charlotte, Emily and Anne, returns from the pub and asks his sisters if they had heard the "terrifying and despicable" news. It seems there has been a terrible, bloody murder in Arunton. Charlotte realizes that her good friend is working as a governess at the very house where the murder took place. The sisters decide that a visit is in order. Branwell wants to come along, but they convince him that would look suspicious.
The following day the sisters make the two hour trek to Chester Grange to visit Charlotte's friend, Matilda. What they learn on their visit is that Matilda entered the room of Mrs. Chester and discovered large quantities of blood on the floor and bed clothes. However, no body has been found and Mrs. Chester is missing. The constable has been to the house and interviewed Matilda; Mrs. Crawley, the housekeeper and Mr. Chester. Mr. Chester indicated that there was a group of gypsies squatting in the woods nearby and he suspects they may have taken Mrs. Chester. Returning home after their visit to Chester Grange, the sisters discuss what they learned. They think there must be clues pointing to where Mrs. Chester is. So, they plan another visit to Chester Grange. It seems as though the constable is not doing much investigating, so the sisters begin looking for evidence on the grounds. They do turn up a few more clues and feel compelled to keep investigating. Will they be able to find Mrs. Chester before its too late?
My thoughts: Before reading this book I knew very little about the Bronte sisters. But it seems that the author knows quite a bit as she explains in a letter to the reader at the end of the book. She used some real life situations based on known biographical facts. This made the book even more compelling.
I enjoyed the relationship the siblings had. Each sister is shown as very unique with certain traits and physical attributes. The brother, Branwell, has a smaller part in the story. However, he causes his sisters concern because he has a habit of visiting pubs and drinking too much. There is a poignant scene between Emily and Branwell when she finds him sprawled out on the front step early in the morning. The sisters still argue and poke fun at one another which lends some levity to the story.
The mystery is complex with many layers. There is a gothic feel to parts of the story as well, which is fitting considering the characters.
One small issue I had was that there seemed to be a negativity toward men by several of the women in the story. I realize that times were different and women weren't given the same opportunities that we are now, but this felt stronger than it needed to be. This idea culminated in the suggestion of a romantic relationship between two woman.
Overall, I enjoyed this mystery and look forward to reading the next book in the series.
"Emily remembered how Mama never tired of answering questions or reading books - books she'd read aloud to her daughters whether they understood them or not. These were the things Emily held on to."
"Branwell had intelligence and wit - he had a deal of talent - and yet none of it was enough to bring him any happiness or contentment within himself. It was as if all of his life he'd been waiting for his genius to be discovered, for his talents to be lauded, without him actually having to do anything. Branwell thought of himself as destined for great things but did no great things to earn that distinction. He failed them all again and again, and himself in every second. And the truth was that it did mean Emily loved him less; she loved him just a little less for not being the man he could have been, and even less still for not even trying."