Title: The Lost Jewels
Author: Kirsty Manning
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 31st March 2020
Synopsis: From the bestselling author of The Jade Lily comes a thrilling modern-day treasure hunt brimming with family secrets.
Inspired by a true story, The Lost Jewels unfolds an incredible mystery of thievery, sacrifice and hope through the generations of one family.
In the summer of 1912, a workman’s pickaxe strikes through the floor of an old tenement house in Cheapside, London, uncovering a cache of unimaginably valuable treasure that quickly disappears again.
Present day. When respected jewellery historian, Kate Kirby, receives a call about the Cheapside jewels, she knows she’s on the brink of the experience of a lifetime.
As Kate peels back layers of concealment and deception, she is forced to explore long-buried secrets concerning Essie, her great-grandmother, and her life in Edwardian London. Soon, Kate’s past and present threaten to collide and the truths about her family lie waiting to be revealed.
Kate Kirby is busy with her work as a jewellery historian when she receives a call from London about the Cheapside Jewels, a treasure trove of jewels discovered in 1912, that disappears from the worksite it is found at. What follows is a story that moves back and forth between 1912, the present day, and London in 1666, just after the plague and during the Great Fire, and India, where the jewels have moved from hand to hand and been lost to history.
Kate’s great-grandmother, Essie, appears to know something, but has never spoken of her life in Edwardian London, and soon Kate finds that the present and the past are about to collide as she investigates where the jewels are and where they came from, and what happened to them whilst wondering if there is a connection to her family.
Essie’s story, and that of her younger sister, Gertrude, runs parallel to Kate’s story, and slowly, the hints at what has happened come out as the story evolves, and the mystery of the jewels is revealed.
I have read a few books lately that move between the past and present – each in very different ways, yet each work very well to tell these stories. In this one, each story is told in third person, and each year and chapter is clear titled, so we know who is speaking at the time to the reader. This makes it easy to follow, and more intriguing – as just as the story gets somewhere in one era, there is a cliffhanger as it shifts to another so that the pieces can be put together.
It also explores the complexities of families and the secrets that impact the lives they lead. It shows how one generation impacts those that come later, and at the same time, explores friendship and love, and new beginnings. Again, this is a book where the love story bubbles beneath the surface, and where the mystery of the jewels is drives the story more.
The Cheapside Jewels, or the Cheapside Hoard and its discovery in 1912 really did happen – I looked it up and found a fascinating series of sources – too many to list here, some were videos, and this gives a great gravitas and grounding in history to the novel, and it was something I had never heard of before. Kirsty Manning captures history and her characters, with clear voices and personalities throughout. I found Essie to be a very interesting character – and quite possibly my favourite, although I do like the idea of Kate’s job – it sounded so interesting!
I recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction and who have read Kirsty’s previous books. It is a great book, filled with mystery, intrigue and drama, and I hope people enjoy it.