The Library Thief

Hanover Square: Harlequin:. May 2024. 368p. ISBN 9781335909695. $29.99. SUSPENSE
DEBUT In Shenjé’s Victorian era–set novel, Florence, the rebellious daughter of a Manchester bookbinder, is ejected by him from her family home. She ends up on the doorstep of Lord Belfield, an aristocrat in need of a restorer for the books in his library. When Florence finds the half-burned diary of Belfield’s dead wife, which suggests a troubled marriage, she begins investigating Lady Belfield’s drowning, which was presumed to be an accident. As she digs into the background of Lady Belfield’s devoted maid, Florence is sent down a path that leads not only to discovering her true identity as a white-passing Black woman but also to uncovering the seamy underbelly of the social mores of Victorian England aristocracy. Containing scenes of assault and unplanned pregnancy, this debut gut-wrenchingly conveys a unique historical perspective on race, gender, and sexuality.
VERDICT Shenjé shines a light on LGBTQIA+ love and people of color in Victorian England. No stone is left unturned or unexamined in this gothic mystery that offers a counterpoint to what is often a cis-het and white genre. Fans of Sarah Waters and Bridget Collins might have in Shenjé a new author to add to their TBR lists.
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