The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey


cover178794-mediumA debut novel for fans of Sarah Perry and Kate Morton: when a young woman is tasked with safeguarding a natural history collection as it is spirited out of London during World War II, she discovers her new manor home is a place of secrets and terror instead of protection.

In August 1939, thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright arrives at Lockwood Manor to oversee a natural history museum collection, whose contents have been taken out of London for safekeeping. She is unprepared for the scale of protecting her charges from party guests, wild animals, the elements, the tyrannical Major Lockwood and Luftwaffe bombs. Most of all, she is unprepared for the beautiful and haunted Lucy Lockwood.

For Lucy, who has spent much of her life cloistered at Lockwood suffering from bad nerves, the arrival of the museum brings with it new freedoms. But it also resurfaces memories of her late mother, and nightmares in which Lucy roams Lockwood hunting for something she has lost.

When the animals appear to move of their own accord, and exhibits go missing, they begin to wonder what exactly it is that they might need protection from. And as the disasters mount up, it is not only Hetty’s future employment that is in danger, but her own sanity too. There’s something, or someone, in the house. Someone stalking her through its darkened corridors . . .

I seem to be reading a lot of gothic mysteries lately…the genre is definitely making a comeback!

Here we have all the elements needed for a first-class, spooky gothic thriller – intrepid heroine who is made of sterner stuff than is believed by those around her; a creepy country house; a tragic inhabitant; a prickly, horrible mystery; and a horrifying climax followed by a new beginning.

There is, however, a refreshing difference here. In the old 1970s gothics, the tragic inhabitant of the creepy country house was invariably a man. Here, it’s Lucy. The beautiful, delicate, sleep-deprived daughter of the master of the house. The story spun around Lucy and Hetty is delicate and charming, a piece of lace on the grimy, icky cloth of the horrible mystery, and one that gets ripped off, preserved, and sewn into something beautiful.

The story is captivating and creepy, the writing skillful and eloquent. Well done.

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Published By: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy