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The Peacock Room

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literary obsession.

An angry young man with a gun.

And one woman trying to foil his deadly plan.

When Helen Oddfellow starts work as a lecturer in English literature, she’s hoping for a quiet life after the trauma and loss of her recent past. But trouble knows where to find her.

There’s something wrong with her new students. Their unhappiness seems to be linked to their flamboyant former tutor, Professor Petrarch Greenwood, who holds decadent parties in his beautiful Bloomsbury apartment.

When Helen is asked to take over his course on the Romantic poet William Blake, life and art start to show uncomfortable parallels. Disturbing poison pen letters lead down dark paths, until Helen is the only person standing between a lone gunman and a massacre.

As Helen knows only too well, even dead poets can be dangerous.

THE PEACOCK ROOM is the intriguing follow-up to the acclaimed 2018 mystery thriller UNLAWFUL THINGS, which introduced the London literary sleuth Helen Oddfellow.


Published October 1, 2020

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Anna Sayburn Lane

6 books17 followers

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Displaying 1 - 14 of 14 reviews
Profile Image for Amy Louise.
344 reviews12 followers
October 10, 2020
I was very excited to be invited to be part of the blog tour for The Peacock Room, Anna Sayburn Lane’s follow up to 2018’s Unlawful Things. The first Helen Oddfellow mystery was a surprising hit for me – one of those books that you know you’ll enjoy but don’t expect to like quite as much as you do!

There’s always a worry when you’ve been anticipating a book that the reality won’t live up to the expectation. Fortunately The Peacock Room is a more than worthy successor to Unlawful Things, offering the same combination of intriguing literary mystery and contemporary conspiracy whilst developing the returning characters nicely.

The mystery this time centres around the philosophical poet William Blake. Returning heroine Helen Oddfellow, still raw from the events of Unlawful Things, is wrenched out of her sixteenth-century comfort zone when she’s asked to take over a first-year class on the Romantic poets at short notice. Turning to an old tour-guiding friend, Barbara Jackson, Helen is soon drawn into the close-knit artistic circles of Blake’s world – and into Barbara’s search for proof that Catherine Blake may have helped in the writing of her husband’s famous poems. But someone else is interested in William Blake – and is using his poetic imagery to justify a violent online misogyny that is threatening to spill over into the real world.

As Helen and Barbara’s investigations progress, the mysteries keep on piling up. What do some missing manuscript pages have to do with an online comic featuring one of Blake’s monstrous creations? How is a centuries old academic puzzle connected to the investigation of online hatred being conducted by Helen’s journalist friend Nick? And what does any of it have to do with Helen’s uhappy poetry students and the flamboyent Professor Greenwood?

Whilst it takes a little while to draw together and develop the various strands of the plot, Anna Sayburn Lane manages to keep the pace high and the twists and revelations coming throughout The Peacock Room. After some scene-setting and introductions at the beginning (ideal for introducing new readers – meaning The Peacock Room can be read perfectly well as a standalone mystery), the slow build of the first third of the book rapidly increases and I rattled through the final 200 pages or so in the space of a few hours!

As with Unlawful Things, some of the plot elements do push the boundaries of plausability – I can attest to the fact that academic life isn’t nearly as thrilling (or, thankfully, as sordid) as this book makes out – there is little that is impossible here (although several that are improbable – if only hidden manuscripts and undiscovered MSS were as easy to find in real life!) and, if realism is sacrificed at times, it is done so in the name of an engaging and enjoyable story.

The Peacock Room does engage with some difficult topics – trigger warnings here for discussions of gaslighting, rape, sexual coersion, sexual violence, grooming, and misogyny – but they are handled sensitively and are always kept relevant to the plot. That there are dark corners of the internet hiding such violent and unsettling interpretations of literature is, sadly, all too true. There were once or two plot strands that I felt wandered a little too close to cliche – guessing Professor Greenwood’s secret wasn’t especially difficult and, whilst I’m sure such things do occur, any modern university would crack down on such behaviour with considerably more force than depicted here however illustrious the academic in question.

These minor niggles aside however, The Peacock Room is a fascinating literary thrill that successfully combines contemporary debates with the thrill of a centuries old mystery to produce an engaging, enjoyable, and edge-of-your-seat read. Deserving of a much wider readership, The Peacock Room is a worthy successor to Unlawful Things – existing fans are sure to enjoy it and I hope it brings many new readers to Anna Sayburn Lane’s action-packed series.

NB: This book first appeared on my blog at https://theshelfofunreadbooks.wordpre... as part of the blog tour for the book. My thanks go to the author for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Hannah May Book Reviews.
304 reviews12 followers
October 7, 2020

Title: The Peacock Room
Author: Anna Sayburn Lane
Rating: 3/5

A huge thank you to Anna Sayburn Lane and Random Things Tours for letting me be part of the blog tour!


Helen Oddfellow starts work as a lecturer in English Literature, all she wants is to get on with her life and job as peacefully as possible after a rough past, however trouble seems to follow Helen even when she isn’t looking for it. There is something off with her students, most of them seem moody or unhappy and the reasons for this all link to their previous flamboyant tutor, Professor Greenwood. He has been known to host decadent parties in his beautiful apartment. When Helen takes over from Professor Greenwood, and the course focuses on the romantic poet William Blake, things take a turn for the worst, dark art work begins to surface and Helen finds herself standing in between a lone gunman and a possible massacre.

At first glimpse, The Peacock Room seemed quite mysterious to me as the description was intriguing, it hinted that this could be a dark read and with me not reading reviews beforehand I was exited to unearth the contents of this book. I genuinely did not know how I would feel about this one but I was intrigued to find out. The fact that I love literature however, was definitely a huge bonus with this read.

After reading The Peacock Room, I was left with mixed reviews. At first, I struggled to get into the read, some chapters captivated me more than others. Some really appealed to my thriller lover side, they were chapters I could sink my teeth into, but others had me drifting off and becoming a little less engaged. It’s safe to say I was kept on my toes!

I’m glad to say I did become invested in the story at the 40% through mark and could feel myself been drawn in. It is safe to say I could really begin to feel the hate and obsession with feminism in this read and I genuinely felt myself worry for the woman involved even thought it was just fiction.
I also really enjoyed the fact I wasn’t able to trust any character other than the female lead Helen and I genuinely felt on edge for her at times. I have to say that Professor Greenwood really did give me the creeps, when he first was introduced in the story warning bells went off in my head and they did not resume throughout.

The more the story mentioned Professor Greenwood’s party the more I needed not wanted to know what happened! I definitely didn’t expect what I found out and some of the chapters in the story were definitely dark, just how I like it! However, I could imagine it being disturbing to some readers. I would have loved to of heard from other perspectives the events of the party as I feel this would have made it that much more disturbing, but maybe that’s just my warped side!
At first, I had my suspect of who was behind all the disturbing art work and planner of the potential massacre but I genuinely thought that maybe this was too obvious. However, thanks to all the past thrillers I have read, I did work out who was behind it all and I loved how cleverly done this was. It will definitely catch others of guard.

I was excited to see how the story would pan out, not all characters were as they seemed and the twists and turns were excellent. I really wanted to get to the end, not because I didn’t enjoy the book but because I just wanted to see what would happen!

The build-up was quite slow, but this led to an explosive ending which I feel was intended. I love how amongst the chaos of the story; it is still packed with historical events and finally I loved how we had strong female leads. There was no damsel in distress, the females got the job done themselves which means The Peacock Room was quite empowering to woman too.
726 reviews11 followers
October 20, 2020
Literature can be a dangerous thing, at least in the life of English literature lecturer Helen Oddfellow in this, her second literary appearance. In this exciting and tense novel with much to say about the exploitation of young women, William Blake’s poetry and illustrations provide the inspiration for much of the action. Not that this is a dry book of literary history; this is a contemporary thriller which goes further than “woman in peril” and maintains a fierce pace. The settings, in a university, in the streets where Blake lived, in well known museums and libraries, tries to evoke not only the contemporary danger to various people, but also give a glimpse of the artist and his contemporaries. This is a fast moving book full of incident and interest, informative about Blake and others, and condemning how certain men have a negative concept of women. I found the writing vivid and engaging, and Helen a very human protagonist who has doubts and feels emotions as well as trying to solve mysteries. The way this story builds up, but with plenty of incidents en route, is so well constructed as to be difficult to put down. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this memorable book.

The Prologue sets an important theme of the book; a man preparing by practicing with a gun, his thoughts depicted as determined and aggressive. Helen is shown in the first chapter as waking alone, contacted by a friend Nick, and suggesting that they meet in Crispin’s flat, an older man who welcomes visitors. As he reveals disturbing drawings, Nick mentions Rintrah, one of Blake’s subjects who is a disturbing influence. He points out that one of the most knowledgeable people of the subject is Professor Pentrarch Greenwood, a person Helen has to encounter as she has to take over his tutor group for a while. Not that she is keen on this assignment, as her knowledge of Blake is limited. She calls on a Blake expert, Barbara, to recommend books and things she must quickly absorb in order to teach effectively. Helen soon discovers that it is not so much the volume of knowledge that she possesses about Blake which is important, as much as her relationship with the five students in the group, who seem to be curiously vulnerable or brashly self confident. The various characters in the novel interact and discover more about what is truly going on in a series of events which tests everyone.

This is a novel which, like its predecessor “Unlawful Things”, combines literary investigation with tense action and drama. I enjoy the setting of the various events in this novel, even though some of the situations are disturbing. The characters are memorable in their reality and their emotions as well as their sudden bursts of understanding. Helen is an excellent main protagonist as she struggles with her own guilt, sadness and regret, but she is also inspired, brave and clever and dealing with the extraordinary situation she finds herself in throughout this novel. It is difficult to review a thriller without giving too much away , but I recommend this book as an extremely well written novel with many layers of interest.

Profile Image for Sukaina Majeed.
596 reviews35 followers
October 16, 2020
 I am on still on an aderaline high after reading this book and its been two whole days of reading this book. The setup, the secrets of the past and the description of the city London.

The book starts on an unknown harbor where a homeless man runs away on hearing the sound of a gun being shot. This is the opening that then transcends into the new world of Helen Oddfellow who has to cooperate with the officials of the university she is going to work in.

Then she runs into her old journalist friend Nick who is tracking a blog who wishes to finish theory of wives of dead poets like William Blake had no hand in their poetry and then the story moves forward.

Helen Oddfellow and the other women characters in the book are hurt, have a dark past,are vulnerable but have a strong exterior which are women we find in our everyday lives.

I am extremely fond of the massive level research and the nitpicking that has been done by the author for the book.

It’s a good treat for thriller readers because it’s just about the mystery. I loved how the arc of a specific male professor starts in the beginning and where it ends.

I was glad how the author doesn’t force fit POC characters but come naturally in the narrative of the story and once you read the book you will understand how.

The literary obsession is a delight to read about and for people/readers who have special interest in poetry or classics,oh boy you are in it for a treat.

By the way,you are going to put your finger on everyone and keep guessing the man with a gun.

Anna also explores the sexist attitude of professors and scholars and as a woman it might make you uncomfortable but it reminds you why we need to remove our rose tinted glasses and move away from the male gaze we all have been conditioned to so badly.

So if you are a person who keeps interest in poets, theories, classic poems then you are going to have twice the fun and if you don’t then also it’s going to be a delightful read for you.

If you liked the review above you can buy THE PEACOCK ROOM FROM HERE
Profile Image for Maria.
835 reviews5 followers
October 9, 2020
Some books are more difficult to make reviews than others, not because I don’t like them but because it’s quite tricky not to spoil too much information of the plot.
This is a mystery book, with a complex plot with multiple characters involved in the story, the main character Helen Oddfellow, is starting a new job as a lecturer in English literature, but if you are not aware, the University jobs are not as “placid” as you can imagine. She will have to take the teaching class of one of the stars of the University, discovering a turbulent past with his students and secret parties. If you think that’s not enough, don’t worry, you’ll discover some interesting facts about the past of the famous Romantic poet William Blake and someone who is obsessed with him and plans an attack.
Helen will have some friends on her side to solve all these conflicts, but she will have to discover some difficult facts before she gets to the real truth. Her life will be in danger and not everyone will survive the story… but if you want to know more you’ll have to read the book!
I’ll admit that I would have liked to know a little bit more of Helen’s past and a little bit more story of her and Nick’s past, there’s not much! There’s a lot of William Blake story, that I’ll admit I love it, but the plot is too centered on the action instead of exploring the main characters, you know, exploring is amazing, but some home time is good too.
This is the second book of the series “Helen Oddfellow” and I can assure you it will not be the last one! Ready to discover “The Peacock Room”?
Profile Image for Becca Adams.
141 reviews9 followers
October 6, 2020
⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars! Thanks to Random Tours & the author for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.


A literary obsession.An angry young man with a gun.And one woman trying to foil his deadly plan.When Helen Oddfellow starts work as a lecturer in English literature, she’s hoping for a quiet life. But trouble knows where to find her.There’s something wrong with her new students. Their unhappiness seems to be linked to their flamboyant former tutor, Professor Petrarch Greenwood, who holds decadent parties in his beautiful Bloomsbury apartment.When Helen is asked to take over his course on the Romantic poet William Blake, life and art start to show uncomfortable parallels. Disturbing poison pen letters lead down dark paths, until Helen is the only person standing between a lone gunman and a massacre.The Peacock Room is the intriguing follow-up to the acclaimed thriller Unlawful Things, which introduced the literary sleuth Helen Oddfellow. If you enjoy intelligent thrillers with a side-order of mystery, you'll love the Helen Oddfellow books.

Thoughts: This one is a slow burner, but keep at it, once you do you’ll not be able to put it down as the suspense builds and builds. The main character Helen is likeable, she doesn’t go looking for trouble but it always seems to find her. This is the second in the series but I enjoyed it as a stand alone. I enjoyed learning about William Blake as I didn’t know anything about him before hand.
Profile Image for Cheryl M-M.
1,804 reviews48 followers
January 1, 2021
This is the second book in the Helen Oddfellow Mystery series, both can be read as standalone novels. This time Helen is drawn into a disturbing world where fantasy and art collide.

Her allegedly firm career foundations are being jostled in favour of a colleague who is more accomplished, but is there more to the man than meets the eye. Is he just playing a role and secretly harbouring resentment and cruel thoughts. Thoughts and fantasies he has found a place to live out with like minded creatures who live in the darkness.

Much like The Following where killers are enamoured by the morbidity of Poe - this book also draws parallels from the art and talent of Blake through Rintrah the Reprobate. Art inspires both love and death, but in this case it is also combined with obsession.

Sayburn Lane creates a fascinating mystery which weaves literary works and the academic world with secrets and emotional quagmires, both of which can be seen between humans regardless of the era and how famous a person is.

Mystery in the world of academia also comes with a healthy portion of the competition, misogyny and sexism in said world. A patriarchal system, which still tends to like to sneer at the opposite gender, especially when they dare to challenge theories and opinions. The author gives readers a look into that world, whilst also giving them a great mystery.
*I received a courtesy copy*
Profile Image for Pam Robertson.
1,032 reviews3 followers
October 9, 2020
I do love a literary mystery and one which involves William Blake and Christina Rossetti adds the icing to the cake as far as I am concerned. The Peacock Room seems to tick all my boxes, with the added interest of female academics and University politics thrown in. This is a novel with several layers. Helen has her own insecurities in her work at the University but has a feeling of responsibility towards her students. The students seem naive and vulnerable, such a contrast to the flamboyant Professor Greenwood. Helen has to decipher a complicated mystery and as we watch her, it is difficult not to be engrossed with the background details about Blake, as well as other writers. Lurking in the dark web, you see malign interpretations of his work and a huge degree of misogyny.

London is very much part of the story and a great background to the suspense which mounts as the story develops. It feels like a race against time at the end and certainly the ending does not disappoint with several twists and turns to surprise. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery and look forward to, hopefully, meeting Helen Oddfellow again.

In short: a tense mystery with a range of characters.
Thanks to the author for a copy of the book.
Profile Image for Hannah Wilson .
330 reviews6 followers
October 9, 2020
Thanks to Anna and Random things for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

When I first read the synopsis I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but you could tell that the book was going to be full of action. I didn’t think it would be as full as it actually turned out to be though.

It did take me a little while to get into the book and the story took a few chapters to really pull off. I really liked the character of Helen and feel that she’s got plenty more adventures yet! She’s determined to uncover the truth and looks below the surface of everything.

There was quite a bit of literary content in this, focusing on the famous poet, William Blake so if you’re a fan of his work you’ll enjoy this. I wasn’t knowledgeable at all about Blake but it didn’t prevent me from being able to enjoy this so it’s a fab book for fans and newcomers.

I was able to guess the ending to a certain extent but I loved the twist and the constant debate of who ‘the young man with the gun’ was. You end up getting to a stage where you don’t really trust anyone which I really liked as it made you really want to find out the truth as well.

I really enjoyed this in the end and will be looking out for more Helen Oddfellow mysteries!
Profile Image for Lel Budge.
1,397 reviews26 followers
October 15, 2020
#2 in the Helen Oddfellow mystery series, but can also be read as a stand-alone.

Here, Helen Oddfellow is asked to take over a class who are studying the romantic poets. This is not her usual area of expertise, but she is soon drawn into the world of William Blake. When some dark art surfaces, all using Blake’s imagery things take a dark and dangerous turn for Helen.

Can Helen stop a planned massacre?

This is a clever, slow burn of a thriller that builds the tension gradually up to a nail biting end. Full of great characters and lots of interesting detail, especially the life and works of William Blake, all of which make this a very engrossing and entertaining read.

Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of The Peacock Room.
Profile Image for Kate McGhee.
102 reviews1 follower
January 18, 2021
A second outing for Helen Oddfellow, now an English lecturer at a fictionalised Central London university. A pacy thriller centred on the works of William Blake. A very enjoyable and tense page-turner. Once again, the author’s experience as a journalist and her threading of the story with convincing contemporary issues (this time including #meToo, extremism and the Dark Web) as well as smart, but accessible, literary references and historical sources make this a satisfying, relevant and well-informed read. Well-drawn characters and expert plotting. Recommended.
Profile Image for Mandy O'Brien.
Author 1 book3 followers
June 2, 2021
I have just finished the Peacock Room in paperback version. I found the story fast based and exciting. Helen shows strength and vulnerability with her students which is realistic and believable. The characters are relatable and alive. I really enjoy the links to South London where I am from. There are shocking images portrayed that are not overdone. I have pile of other books to read but I think the next instalment is likely to find its way to the top!
Profile Image for Sarah.
300 reviews15 followers
October 27, 2020
A great blend of modern day thriller and historical mystery. I loved how this book had me engrossed in both the main thriller element of the book and equally, on the story surrounding the artists and writer William Blake.
This is the second book in the Helen Oddfellow series, but can be read as a standalone novel.
Helen is a junior lecturer of English Lit at a university in London. Her topic of expertise is sixteenth century playhouse, so when she is told, by her boss, that she is going to have to cover teaching a group of students on the poet William Blake she is somewhat panicked.
Their normal professor, Petrarch Greenwood, is taking time out to finish his book so Helen turns to her friend and old college Barbara, a Blake enthusiast, to 'gen up' on the subject. In doing so, she also quickly becomes involved in a possible new and exciting discovery her friend has made.
But when Helen meets her new students, she soon realises something was very wrong with the way their previous professor 'taught' his subject. Along side this we also hear from a character who calls himself Rintrah the Reprobate and runs a very unpleasant blog on the dark web connecting to Blake.
Helen is approached by her journalist friend, Nick, who has discovered the blog and as tension builds, danger soon starts to surround Helen and her students from all directions.
The research put into this novel was excellent and I found the parts on the life and work of William Blake and friends fascinating. I didn't know much about his life but the way it is presented to the reader, through the story, was extremely interesting. I found myself reaching for my phone to google areas of London or people he was acquainted with, to find out more.
The areas featured in the story are very well described and were easy to bring to my minds eye. The thriller builds at a good pace, bringing the different threads from within the story together, finishing off with a fast paced and exciting last few chapters.
With the mix of thriller and historical mystery it felt a little like a modern day, UK urban Dan Brown plot.
I enjoyed the authors writing style and the main characters from the book were very likeable, will definitely add the previous book in the series, Unlawful Things, to my TBR.
October 7, 2020
I loved this - and I read a LOT of novels I don't usually rate. Compelling characters, great plot, enough to leave me wanting more...I'm waiting for the next one now!
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