Carragh Ryan’s job at Deeprath Castle begins with a very odd job interview. She doesn’t learn much about the job and isn’t very sure about the frosty Lady Gallagher that hires her, but she leaps at the chance to work at the remote castle’s famed library because of its troubled history. Little does she know that Deeprath’s history has continued to be troubled right through to the present day. In The Darkling Bride, by Laura Andersen, we follow (mostly) Carragh as she digs into the family history and winds up at the center of a re-opened murder investigation.
The Darkling Bride jumps back and forth in time and back and forth into the heads of various narrators. In the present, Carragh and Garda Inspector Sibéal McKenna, peel back the layers of the remaining Gallaghers’ secrets at Deeprath Castle, in County Wicklow, Ireland. Carragh works as an inoffensive cataloger in the castle library, but her curiosity (and the promptings of what might be a ghost) send her down the rabbit hole of the what happened to the famous Victorian author who once lived there and his (I think bipolar) Gallagher bride. Meanwhile, Sibéal has been tasked with re-investigating what really happened to the murdered parents of the current Lord Gallagher.
We also get glimpses of the past through the Victorian author, Evan Chase-Gallagher, who was famous for writing Gothic novels based on folklore, and from his wife’s diary. At first, I didn’t know why those chapters were included in the novel. They were interesting, sure, but it isn’t until the end of The Darkling Bride that everything comes together in a thrilling and fitting climax.
The mystery (or mysteries) at the heart of the book are very well plotted, but what made this book for me was the way that it brings the setting and its history to life. Throughout the novel, Lord Gallagher is harassed by his relatives for his decision to give the castle to the Irish National Trust. The Gallagher family has been there for centuries. They belong there. It would be a betrayal of all of that to give the place up. And yet, Carragh’s heritage as an adopted child and later revelations in the book show us just how much blood and family love matter. This affecting theme, plus all of the detail lavished on the castle and its surroundings, made this book much deeper than its mysteries.
I can recommend The Darkling Bride as a literary thriller that works. I’ve been disappointed quite a few times in the past by books that involve chases after lost manuscripts that fizzled. This book doesn’t fizzle. Far from it. It’s a slow burn that got more and more tense as I read. I couldn’t but it down for the last half because I just had to know what happened next.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration. It will be released 6 March 2018.