cover image Summer of Secrets

Summer of Secrets

Cora Harrison. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-9039-9

Harrison’s middling third whodunit featuring Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins (after 2020’s Winter of Despair) takes the two Victorian authors to Knebworth House, the Hertfordshire castle that’s home to Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton, an MP and fellow writer. Along with a magazine editor, a journalist, and several artists, Bulwer-Lytton has invited the two close friends to perform one of his own plays at a charitable benefit for the family of a recently deceased actor. The atmosphere at Knebworth is fraught, in large part because Bulwer-Lytton’s mentally unstable wife, whom he once had confined to an asylum, is in attendance. And Collins is disgusted by his host’s secretary, the unctuous Tom Maguire, who later harasses a young woman with whom Dickens’s son Charley is enamored. The tensions come to a head when one of the cast members is fatally shot during the play’s performance. Neither Dickens nor Collins is effectively brought to life, and their sleuthing is unremarkable. The final reveal doesn’t redeem a lackluster plot. This installment falls far short of Harrison’s best work, which is very good indeed. [em]Agent: Peter Buckman, Ampersand Agency (U.K.). (Mar.) [/em]