A dark house filled with darker secrets…
Winter 1954, and in a dilapidated apartment in Brooklyn, Sam Cooper realises that she has nothing left. Her mother is dead, she has no prospects, and she cannot afford the rent. But as she goes through her mother’s things, Sam finds a stack of hidden letters that reveal a family and an inheritance that she never knew she had, three thousand miles away in Yorkshire.
Begars Abbey is a crumbling pile, inhabited only by Sam’s crippled grandmother, Lady Cooper, a housekeeper and a handful of servants. Sam cannot understand why her mother kept its very existence a secret, but her diaries offer a glimpse of a young girl growing increasingly terrified. As is Sam herself.
Built on the foundations of an old convent, Begars moves and sings with the biting wind. Her grandmother cannot speak, and a shadowy woman moves along the corridors at night. For there are dark places in the hidden tunnels beneath Begars. And they will not give up their secrets easily…
Hi and welcome to my review of Begars Abbey!
That blurb and that dark cover hinting at even dark things, there was just no walking away from Begars Abbey for me, and I’m all the happier for it: I had a great time with it.
Begars Abbey is told from the perspective of Sam Cooper, a young woman who lost her mother a little under a year ago. Feeling lost and alone with her only family gone, she’s sorting through her mother’s belongings when she finds a stack of letters revealing that her maternal grandmother, apparently an English Lady, is still alive. Which brings us to the question that permeates the entire story: why did her mother never tell Sam any of this? What made her mother leave and build a life across the pond, never mentioning anything about her family, their history?
Soon, Sam sets foot on English soil for the first time in her life, to find her roots and meet this grandmother she never even knew existed. However, her ancestral home, Begars Abbey, has lost all of its former grandeur, it’s little more than a ruin, shrouded in mystery, dank and dark and not all welcoming, and her grandmother is severely handicapped following a series of strokes.
Sam can’t reconcile the mother she’s always known with the traces of her she finds at Begars Abbey and the more she learns through reading her old diaries, the less anything makes sense. Meanwhile, I became just as obsessed as Sam with the questions that haunted her in this house where everything and everyone just felt terribly off.
Begars Abbey is delightfully mysterious, only slowly revealing its secrets, and bloody hell, what godawful truths they turned out to be. Overall, it’s not particularly action packed but it doesn’t need to be, there are so many details, little quirks that keep you on your toes, make you question what’s going on, what’s real and what’s not. Why is everyone so secretive, what do they know that Sam doesn’t, that we as readers don’t? Are there actual ghosts at Begars Abbey or is Sam seeing things, and if there are, what do they want?
Begars Abbey is an incredibly atmospheric Gothic mystery / ghost story that crawled under my skin in no time and stayed there for a long time after I finished it. Recommended.
Begars Abbey is out on 28 April in hardcover and digital formats.
Massive thanks to Viper Books and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.