HAND OF GLORY by Glen Petrie
Kirkus Star


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Like Mariamne (1977), this fine, tangy, vigorously-textured historical novel is based on a true episode--the death of the head of a smuggling gang in the Cumbrian Fells in 1778. Petrie's version centers on 21-year-old Leonie Croasdale, a London-raised lady who has just inherited the properties of Ennerdale, a seat in the wild, rugged Cumberland area. Leonie reacts to this windfall with a deep hunger to embrace her own land and people, and, after a disconcerting journey, she happily joins a household of apparently devoted servants at Ennerdale. But she soon discovers that her village people are sadly impoverished, near starvation, due mainly to the enclosures--which have prevented the shepherds and peasants from openly trading graphite mined from their land. Smuggling, then, is inevitable; and Leonie's people are plagued by revenue officers and by the callous local gentry (who nonetheless blink at the influx of luxury goods for themselves). Worst of all, however--as puzzled Leonie discovers with growing alarm--is the constant danger to the folk from a secret community of ruthless smugglers. Among the mysteries: comings-and-goings on Leonie's land: the curious ostracization of twelve-year-old villager Sarah, who keeps an odd vigil in a graveyard; and what seems to be a general conspiracy of village silence. And Leonie's only comforter through it all is Richard Marker, a neighboring squire. Eventually, determined to protect her people and set things right, Leonie is drawn into a maelstrom of savagery: the terrible tale of the torture death of a child; the murder of a trusted servant; the ghastly ""hand of glory"" warning (a severed hand holding a candle at the window); and the kidnapping of Sarah. And finally, deceived even by Richard, she takes her own bloodthirsty revenge, then leaves Ennerdale forever, disillusioned. A tension-fibered, hard-riding tale--with a forceful, likable heroine and a completely enveloping atmosphere firmly grounded in the period's mores and speech. Topnotch.

Pub Date: Dec. 12th, 1980
Publisher: St. Martin's