The Cartographer’s Secret

Harper Muse. Nov. 2021. 400p. ISBN 9780785267317. pap. $17.99. F
After the unexpected death of her brother Thorne, Lettie Rawlings seeks to escape her grief and her mother’s ambitions when she agrees to visit her great-aunt Olivia in the Hunter Valley of Australia. Setting out in Thorne’s Model T, Lettie arrives at Olivia’s horse farm, where she finds a feisty, capable woman and a house full of family secrets. Apparently Lettie resembles Evie Ludgrove, her aunt who disappeared decades earlier. Evie and her father were obsessed with explorer Dr. Ludwig Liechhardt, who also disappeared into the Australian bush. Compelled to discover what happened to Evie, Lettie delves into her grandfather’s papers and finds a beautifully drawn map that Evie created. Following a clue from the map takes Lettie on another journey across the valley and also into the arms of Nathaniel Poole. As they piece together what might have happened to Evie, Lettie begins to feel at home on the farm and envisions a new future for herself.
VERDICT Alternating between Lettie’s story in 1911 and Evie’s story in 1880, Cooper’s (The Girl in the Painting) engrossing novel offers up several strong female characters with an intriguing mystery and a bit of romance in a gorgeous, yet harsh Australian setting.
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