Wanted, a respectable woman to care for a motherless child.
When William D. Thomas’s wife dies in childbirth, he places an advertisement in his local newspaper seeking a nanny for his newborn child.
He is thankful when an experienced nanny arrives at 43 Laurence Street and takes over from his frazzled housekeeper Mrs McHugh.
Mrs McHugh confides in her bedridden friend Betty, who has a bird’s-eye view of all the happenings on Laurence Street, that the Nanny is not all she seems. Betty begins her own investigation into the mysterious woman.
When the bodies of twin babies are discovered buried in a back garden, by a family who have moved from their tenement home into a country cottage, a police investigation begins.
But it is Betty who holds the key to discovering who the Nanny really is … and the reason she came to 43 Laurence Street.
Some books hook you from the very first page and The Nanny at Number 43 is definitely one of them!
Opening with the grisly discovery of two small bodies buried in a suitcase in the back garden of a well-to-do suburban house, the novel quickly descends into a dark tale of death and revenge as a mysterious – and seemingly respectable – young woman arrives at 43 Laurence Street to care for a newly orphaned baby. As the new nanny’s relationship with the newly widowed Mr Thomas begins to develop beyond that of employer and employee, housekeeper Mrs McHugh begins to suspect that all may not be as it seems with the young woman.
Who is the mysterious nanny? What connection does she have with the disturbing secret, buried in a Dublin garden? And why does she seem so familiar with the streets and dockyards of Drogheda? As the story unfolds, dark secrets and forgotten memories are uncovered that may prove deadly for the occupants of Number 43.
The Nanny at Number 43 is a fast-paced historical novel that grabbed me from the very first page. Flitting between different voices and timelines, it weaves together past and present mysteries into an assured and compelling tale. Cassidy is particularly adept at writing fallible and even unlikeable characters. The occasional chapters from the nanny’s point of view are genuinely chilling, and there is another voice within the book that, if anything, is even more sinister.
It’s not all unlikeable figures and dark deeds here though. The loyal and hard-working Mrs McHugh is a warm character, and I really felt for her as the events of the book unfolded. Her bedridden friend Betty, who lives across the road from Number 43 and has a birds-eye view of the comings and goings of Laurence Street, is another charming character who is filled with wry observations. And widower Mr Thomas is a portrait of grief, struggling to cope with his newborn daughter and vulnerable to the machinations the charming young woman who has entered his home. Whilst they don’t always make the wisest – or the nicest – choices, I could understand what motivated these characters and they all felt like real people.
The historical setting is also well-realised, with the sights and sounds of late nineteenth-century Drogheda coming to life on the page. There’s a real sense of the dockyard community, and of the precarious nature of a life lived just on the edge of poverty – one or two unfortunate events and you could slip from working respectability to the stigma of the workhouse in a matter of weeks. Whilst there’s no justifying the actions of some of the characters in the book, Cassidy has done an excellent job of revealing the society and the circumstances that lie behind their actions.
Perfect for fans of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and The Good People, The Nanny at Number 43 is an accomplished historical novel that blends elements of crime fiction with a compelling domestic drama. With both convincing characters and a well-realised historical setting, it is also sure to appeal to fans of novels such as Elizabeth Haynes’ The Murder of Harriet Monkton and Anna Mazzola’s The Story Keeper.
The Nanny at Number 43 by Nicola Cassidy is published by Poolbeg Press and is available now in paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Book Depository, and Amazon.
My thanks go to the author and publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this tour. The blog tour continues until 16 July 2019 so do check out the other stops along the way for further reviews and content!