When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers. As Dee looks back over her time in the Master’s Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother.
But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why was Felicity silent?
Roaming Oxford’s secret passages and hidden graveyards, Magpie Lane explores the true meaning of family – and what it is to be denied one.
Hi and welcome to my review of Magpie Lane!
It was Eva’s marvellous review that put this book on my radar, the blurb alone piqued my interest and she sealed the deal by saying it has a fabulous gothic feel. Now that I’ve listened to it, do I agree? I do wholeheartedly! I love a modern setting laced with history and gothic vibes and that is exactly what Lucy Atkins has created here.
Main character Dee meets Nick while out for a stroll in Oxford. Nick is the new Oxford College Master who has just moved house along with his eight-year-old daughter Felicity and his pregnant second wife Mariah. Felicity is selectively mute, and between their jobs and remodelling the house, her parents have little time for her. As Dee is a nanny between jobs, it’s practically kismet! However, this storyline is embedded in another: Felicity is missing and the police are questioning Dee. While we flashback through Dee’s memories, it’s clear that there’s more to her than meets the eye, but does she know more about Felicity’s disappearance than she’s letting on? Did the girl run away? Or does her stepmother have anything to do with it?
I was properly intrigued from the get-go, and as I continued to listen my fascination only grew. Dee is a tad odd (she loves mathematics and spends her free time on working on a proof, need I say more 😉) but I quite liked her and I especially love her for loving Felicity. Felicity has to be one of my favourite characters ever, and that’s saying something. She is incredibly sensitive, and only feels comfortable talking to her dad. Yet, she has these hidden depths, a fascination with the occult and history, much like my own, and it was the hugest pleasure to see her open up to Dee. I just wanted to jump into my audiobook and give her a hug. And while I was there, give her dad and his wife a piece of my mind, the pompous, egotistical 🤬🤬🤬🤬.
The mystery surrounding Felicity’s disappearance was magnificently executed, leading up to a conclusion I did not see coming until minutes before the reveal, but what I enjoyed even more was learning so many fun facts from Magpie Lane, and in the most pleasing way! Selective mutism, priest holes, Oxford, … If you’re a regular here you’ll know that there is no greater bookish pleasure for me than to be entertained and learn something at the same time, and let’s just say I really need to get me a Linklater 😊
Magpie Lane is expertly narrated by Susie Riddell. While voicing Dee she speaks with a soft Scottish lilt, but she switches effortlessly to a slightly Nordic accented English for Mariah, an Oxford English for Nick, and pretty much everything in between to accommodate other characters. To my (admittedly non-native) ears they all sounded perfect, and regardless of accents, she also tweaks her pitch and speed to voice the various characters. I would recommend Magpie Lane in any format but if you enjoy audiobooks, you should definitely check out the audio version.
If your favourite classic is a gothic one like Rebecca and you devoured Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key last year,
you’re me Magpie Lane is the story for you! Highly recommended.