I was immediately intrigued by the cover of this book,
and had not yet read any other work by Lucy Atkins.
The book centres around two women; Professor Olivia
Sweetman and Vivian Tester. Olivia has it all, with the high-flying career as
TV presenter and historian, three children and talented husband. Vivian is the sixty
year old spinster housekeeper to Lady Burley, descendent of Annabel Burley, who
was an early Victorian female surgeon, and is the subject of Olivia’s new book.
Vivian is drab, obsessive, socially awkward and neurotic
while Olivia is sophisticated, talented and glamorous. However, Vivian knows a
secret that Olivia wants to conceal, and thus begins the teasing out of an
uneasy balance of power between the two women.
As the housekeeper
who discovered the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based, Vivian
becomes the unofficial research assistant. Lucy Atkins has written this novel
with a strong shadow of foreboding and we feel something has happened to Vivian
but have no real backstory; really just more of a feeling of malice, spite or
This is a tightly plotted novel with plenty of suspense
and a superbly shocking ending. Lucy Atkins in her work often draws on
challenging relationships and past secrets. To this end the jacket cover can be
explained by the reveal that Olivia’s father was an eminent academic biologist
who studied beetles and achieved some fame in that field.
The author has previously worked as a journalist and this
shows in the ease and fluency with which she tells the story, effortlessly
weaving two timelines and multiple locations together.
Night Visitor has all the ingredients for a great
psychological thriller, and is a good reminder that people are not either just
good or just bad. People can and will do what they need to in order to survive,
and black and white can become grey.
On this note I will cite the epigraph at the beginning of
what will not ambition and revenge
Milton, Paradise Lost, Book Nine.
Submitted by Paula
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