A Gothic Treat: The Small Museum by Jody Cooksley

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The Small Museum by Jody Cooksley is an engrossing Gothic mystery set in Victorian London. There are some mature themes and dark moments so it's definitely not for everyone, but if you enjoy a historical novel that veers towards the dark and strange, read on.

The story follows Madeleine “Maddie” Brewster, a young woman married off to the esteemed Dr. Lucius Everley in hopes of repairing her family's reputation. Lucius, a collector with an eerie fascination for natural curiosities, keeps his prized specimens locked away in his personal museum. 

From the moment Maddie steps into her new home at Arlington Crescent, she's overwhelmed by Lucius's sister, Grace, who dismisses and undermines her at every turn. Isolated and feeling like a prisoner in her own home, Maddie's only escape is through her art. Drawing inspiration from what's around her, she sketches the strange specimens her husband collects. Yet, as she moves deeper into Lucius's world, the things she discovers are even more unsettling than she might have guessed – and she ends up being accused of murder.

The story's narrative is split between Maddie's perspective during the marriage and her friend Caroline's viewpoint during Maddie's trial. This dual timeline makes for an immersive reading experience, amping up the tension as we piece together the events that led to Maddie's unfortunate predicament. Aside from being a genuinely interesting story, it highlights the era's scientific curiosity and the oppressive roles forced upon women. The story also touches on themes of power, control, and the lengths individuals will go to in order to protect their secrets.

Like any great mystery or thriller writer, Cooksley does a great job of maintaining the tension and unease throughout. The characters are richly drawn, and Maddie's gradual realisation of how utterly screwed she is makes it easy to feel for her. Cooksley's attention to detail and historical accuracy add authenticity, and her descriptions of the museum make it delightfully creepy. 

We would absolutely recommend The Small Museum to any fans of Gothic literature and historical mysteries. Its blend of atmospheric suspense and historical accuracy makes it better than most books in its genre. Maddie's story is both tragic and inspiring, a testament to the strength and resilience of the female spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity and prejudice.

Thank you to NetGalley UK for providing a review copy.

Order The Small Museum by Jody Cooksley

The Small Museum by Jody Cooksley

If this sounds like your kind of book, you'll be pleased to know that as of May 16th, 2024, it will be available in the US, Canada, and the UK (likely quite a few others, but we know those three for certain). You can order on Amazon, or you can click HERE to visit Bookshop and support independent bookshops. And of course, there's always your local public library or favourite local bookshop. 

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