ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The Story Collector by Iris Costello

The Story Collector by Iris Costello will be published by Penguin Viking on 29th February in paperback, eBook and audiobook. My thanks to the publishers for the proof copy which came with a lovely letter from the author about her inspiration for the book.

Three women. A long-buried secret. One voice will free them all…
London, 1915: Amid the wartime chaos, Katerina is hailed as a beacon of hope for her bakery, which offers divination alongside sweet treats. But the dark truth she’s hiding could cost her everything.

Germany, 1918: Miriam secretly vows to help a mute British soldier in the prisoner-of-war camp she’s stationed at. Soon she must make an impossible choice: will she save the one she loves, or herself?

Cornwall, Present Day: Edie is astonished to discover a mysterious box hidden in the wall of her newly renovated cottage. As Edie starts to investigate, she uncovers a secret that has lain hidden for over a century…

Sweeping through the cobbled streets of war-time London, a German WWI camp, and the sea-swept cliffs of Cornwall, The Story Collector is a thrilling, richly woven story about three women, bound by a long-held secret.

The Story Collector is a triple timeline story set in 1915, 1918 and the present day. In wartime London Katerina is trying to keep her father’s bakery going whilst also using her gift for tarot readings to help people, especially the women whose husbands are away fighting. In a German prisoner-of-war camp, researcher Miriam is helping a professor to undertake a linguistics project when she meets mute Prisoner X. And in modern day Cornwall Edie, having fled London after the death of her husband, comes across a box in a cavity in the wall of her cottage which contains some very interesting items indeed.

Despite the 1915 and 1918 timelines being so close to each other in time, they’re on a quite different trajectory to each other and for much of the book it’s not clear how the three strands are going to be connected. Iris Costello did an amazing job at plotting this book and gradually bringing all the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. I loved being kept guessing, trying to work it all out and not quite succeeding. I was just completely along for the ride and loved every minute of it.

For me, this book has everything I want. It has the multiple threads, both historical and modern, family secrets, sweet treats, tarot cards and visions, and a stunning love story. The writing is utter perfection, just so beautifully executed and vivid, and the settings are full of atmosphere, thoroughly transporting me to the different locations. As each chapter ended I was plunged into another time, each as strong and as compelling as the one before it and I was quite simply engrossed from beginning to end. The Story Collector is absolutely glorious, with characters that jump off the page and a long-hidden mystery at its heart. Looking back at my review of The Secrets of Rochester Place, Costello’s previous book, I can see I said some very similar things. I loved that book but I loved The Story Collector even more.

Iris Costello is the pseudonym of bestselling author, Nuala Ellwood. She has a BA Hons degree in Sociology from Durham University and a Master’s in Creative Writing from York St John University where she is a visiting lecturer. She is the author of seven highly acclaimed novels, the most recent of which was The Secrets of Rochester PlaceThe Story Collector is her eighth book.


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