Today I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for The Companion by Sarah Dunnakey with my review on publication day!
About this book…
How do you solve a mystery when the clues are hidden in the past?
The Companion is a beautiful and powerfully-told story of buried secrets, set between the 1930s and the present day, on the wild Yorkshire moors.
Billy Shaw lives in a palace. Potter’s Pleasure Palace, the best entertainment venue in Yorkshire, complete with dancing and swing-boats and picnickers and a roller-skating rink.
Jasper Harper lives in the big house above the valley, with his eccentric mother Edie and Uncle Charles, brother and sister authors who have come from London to write in the seclusion of the moors.
When it is arranged for Billy to become Jasper’s companion, Billy arrives to find a wild, peculiar boy in a curiously haphazard household where nothing that’s meant is said and the air is thick with secrets. Later, when Charles and Edie are found dead, it is ruled a double suicide, but fictions have become tangled up in facts and it’s left to Anna Sallis, almost a century later, to unravel the knots and piece together the truth.
What a stunning book this is! I was attracted to it initially by the cover and that rather intriguing tag line “How do you solve a mystery when the clues are hidden in the past”. It grabbed my attention from the moment I stumbled across it over on Twitter and when I received my review copy that love affair continued! This author also has my dream job of writing and verifying questions for quiz shows (I am a huge fan of quizzes and for someone who is the most uncompetitive person anyone has ever met, a red mist descends when I’m quizzing and I become a monster!!) so again I was intrigued to see how that knowledge would translate once she was writing a fictional novel with a mystery at its heart.
I do love a duel timeline book and this one is done exceptionally well. It’s always a good sign when you get to the end of each period piece to then want to stay with those characters and I felt the same about both timelines. When we first meet Billy Shaw and his family in 1932 I was immediately transported to The Palace by the vividly described attractions there and I wanted to go and have tea and cake in the cafe run by Billy’s mum. It took me a while to actually realise that it was written in Billy’s local dialect as the narrative was so tightly written it flowed seamlessly as you heard his voice in your head.
In 2017 Anna Sallis has moved to Yorkshire to become the custodian of Ackerdean Mill which was previously the Palace and as she undertakes the huge job of sorting through the archives, she becomes involved in a past tragedy. Meeting and making friends with the locals gives her an insight into events that happened to Billy Shaw when he moved to High Hob aged 11 to be a companion to Jasper Harper. I loved Anna as a character, her train of thought is brought forward purposefully and methodically as she realises that things that happened in the past aren’t as clear cut as everyone has always thought. Her relationship with Frank was developed with an understated tenderness that I found endearing and heartwarming as they both took what they needed from the other.
With her first novel Sarah Dunnakey has given us a stunning mystery providing an insight into family secrets that have been hidden in plain sight for years within the most wonderfully evocative setting. I loved the slow burning tension as the author stripped back the years, revealing layers of misunderstanding and deceipt along the way.
If you love books by writers such as Katherine Webb then I think you will really enjoy The Companion, it is definitely a book that will stay with me for some time. Highly recommended by me!
The Companion is available to purchase now from Amazon UK
Meet the author…
When she’s not writing fiction, Sarah writes and verifies questions and answers for a variety of TV quiz shows including Mastermind, University Challenge and Pointless. She has an honours degree in History and has previously worked as a librarian, an education officer in a Victorian cemetery and an oral history interviewer.
Sarah has won or been shortlisted in several short story competitions and her work has been published in anthologies and broadcast on Radio 4. In 2014 she won a Northern Writer’s Award, from New Writing North after submitting part of The Companion. She lives with her husband and daughter in West Yorkshire on the edge of the Pennine Moors. Follow her on Twitter @SarahDeeWrites