Saturday, January 2, 2010

Review: Magpie Hall by Rachael King

Title: Magpie Hall
Author: Rachael King
Genre: Gothic/Ghost
Publisher: Vintage 2009


There were two rumours surrounding my great-great-grandfather Henry Summers: one, that his cabinet of curiousities drove him mad; and two, that he murdered his first wife.

Rosemary Summers is an amateur taxidermist and a passionate collector of tattoos. To her, both these activities honour the deceased and keep their memory alive. After the death of her grandfather, and struggling to deal with a failing relationship and a stalled thesis, she returns alone to Magpie Hall to claim her inheritance: Grandpa's own taxidermy collection, started more than 100 years ago by their ancestor Henry Summers. As she sorts through Henry's legacy the ghosts of her family's past begin to make their presence known.

The story moves smoothly between two time periods : the present day Rosemary and her great-great-grandfather Henry and his wife Dora in colonial New Zealand. Secrets and mysteries aplenty in both eras and a fascinating look at the unlikely subjects of tattooing and taxidermy.

Rachael King uses words sparingly which in this case is not a fault but an example that sometimes less is definitely more. Her style has a uniqueness that is a pleasure to read and her writing is descriptive and atmospheric . There were moments when I wanted to read out loud in order to savour each word. A totally unexpected twist at the end provides a great finish to a captivating and beautifully written story.

Rachael King is a New Zealand author - her first book 'The Sound of Butterflies' was a Montana prizewinner. As yet I don't think Magpie Hall has been released outside NZ - her website will no doubt have updates on that so do put it on your TBR lists because it's well worth reading.

Rating 4+


  1. This looks so good!! Sounds really interesting with the different time periods! I'm headed over to enter the contest :)

  2. Sounds really good, I liked your comment about less is more. A new-to-me author I'd love to try!

  3. I really enjoyed it - it has a bit of everything and very easy reading.