Review Blog

Sep 10 2013

The dark unwinding by Sharon Cameron

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The dark unwinding bk 1. Scholastic, 2013. ISBN 9780545327879.
(Age 13+) Recommended. Gothic. Mystery. Historical. Katharine Tulman is sent to the estate of her eccentric uncle by her Aunt who believes that he should be put into an asylum as he is squandering her son's inheritance. But when Katharine arrives she finds an eccentric genius inventor who is supporting over 900 employees that have been rescued from the workhouses of London. Katharine knows that she can secure a future for herself if she declares that her uncle is mad, but she is torn when she sees the good work that her uncle is doing by giving employment to so many destitute men and their families. Things are further complicated by the presence of a handsome apprentice and a beguiling student who is fascinated by her uncle's inventions. When she starts to do strange things at night, she begins to fear for her own sanity and gradually the tension grows around her as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her.
I love gothic mysteries and this one did not disappoint. Readers who are new to this genre will revel in the twists and turns of the plot; the suggestions of insanity, the threat of asylums for the insane, the loss of inheritances and the dark romance surrounding the young men in the story. Readers who are familiar with the genre will revel in a good story that contains some plot lines that resonate but also some unique ideas and sub plots. It was particularly interesting to read the author's note at the end about where she got some of her ideas for her background and its historical accuracy.
Not only is the plot captivating, the characters stand out as well. Uncle Tully the eccentric inventor, who could be autistic, makes wonderful and strange animations and devices that challenge the imagination. Both Katharine's and his ability with numbers is fascinating and creates a bond between the two. The reader is kept wondering about which of the two young men will engage Katharine's interest but the romance doesn't dominate the story at all, it is the mystery surrounding Katharine's strange behaviour and her dilemma about what she will do about her uncle that is so engrossing.
I loved the mid-19th century setting, the dilapidated mansion with its secret passages, the lord of the manor structure and the anger of the men who were afraid that Katharine would jeopardise their livelihood. This was an entertaining and atmospheric thriller that is sure to gain an audience from readers who like historical mysteries.
Pat Pledger

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