The Brontë sisters take on their first sleuthing case—and it’s a dilly.
In 1845, Emily, Charlotte, and Anne Brontë lead a plain, quiet life with their father in Haworth Parsonage, with only their brilliant imaginations for company. The Yorkshire quiet is shattered when their roustabout brother, Branwell, reports a bloody killing at nearby Chester Grange and the disappearance of the body, assumed to be that of Elizabeth, the second wife of Robert Chester. The Grange has been notorious ever since Chester’s first wife threw herself out the window some years back. Following this new horror, the sisters decide to engage in the newly developing career choice of “detecting,” particularly because Matilda French, a schoolmate of Charlotte and Emily’s who’s the governess at the Grange, witnessed the blood-soaked bed in Elizabeth’s chamber. Undaunted by the chilly reception they get from the Grange's housekeeper and their unpleasant first encounter with the master of the house, the sisters investigate a nearby gypsy camp and a place in the woods where they find a charred bone and an intact tooth. While Anne and Branwell insinuate themselves completely enough into the Grange to discover a hidden panel, a secret staircase, bloody evening gloves, and an incriminating note, Charlotte and Emily conduct wide-ranging interviews, sometimes as themselves and sometimes in disguise. Witnessing a macabre scene of obsession and remorse gives the sisters more insight into Elizabeth’s life with Chester. And the more they learn about the unfortunate woman, the more sympathetic they feel and the more they’re willing to flout convention and the more risks they’ll take to learn the truth. Along the way, Ellis, a pseudonym for Rowan Coleman (We Are All Made of Stars, 2016, etc.), drops plenty of hints about where the sisters supposedly find inspiration for their future novels.
Move over, Jane Austen, for the latest literary ladies who snoop in this improbable but lively series debut.