Sue's Reviews > The Nanny at Number 43

The Nanny at Number 43 by Nicola Cassidy
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really liked it

This book is billed as a mystery, and that it is, but it’s not the usual kind of thing. Most mysteries start out with an intro, then a crime of some sort is committed, and then the rest of the book is about discovering the criminal and bringing him or her to justice. This book is slightly different, in that while you are gradually told just who is up to no good, it isn’t until nearly the end of the book that you find out the truth about the crime. The book takes place in Ireland, with the majority of the action being in the year 1879.

I shall start by introducing you to the cast of major characters.

Christy is a man, I’d guess about age 40 or so, who is nearing the end of a 10-year prison sentence. Christy was never married, and before his court-ordered sabbatical he was a general laborer. He has a sister named Susan that kept in contact with him by occasional letters, but they’re not close and hadn’t been even before the penitentiary.

Margaret Murphy, known as Maggie, is in her late 20’s. She is an orphan, and we learn early on that the last several of her growing-up years were spent in a workhouse, as her mother had been sent to prison and her father’s identity was unknown. Since leaving the workhouse she’s made her way in the world by hiring herself out, first as a household servant and the last several years as a Nanny.

William Thomas is a very recent widower. His wife Anna gave birth to a baby girl 3 weeks ago, and then sadly died of Puerperal Fever (also known at the time as Childbed Fever, and today known as Post-natal Uterine Infection). He is devastated by his wife’s unexpected death, and now finds himself in desperate need of a Nanny to care for the poor motherless newborn. He resides at # 43 Laurence Street.

Mrs. Winnie” McHugh is the housekeeper at the Thomas home, and has been for many years. Winnie is, I would guess, in her 50’s or 60’s, an estimate I make based on the fact that Winnie’s husband Mick recently retired from his job as a dock-worker. Winnie and Mick have no children, leaving Winnie free to work a job outside the home. She runs the household, plans the meals, does all the food shopping, and pretty much all you’d expect of an expert 1879 housekeeper. She also oversees the one remaining maid/servant girl still in the home’s employ (Ethel).

There is one supporting character that is worth mentioning, an elderly lady by the name of Betty Farley is an elderly invalid. She lives in an upstairs apartment, above the pub that she and her late husband ran for decades. Her bedroom window overlooks Laurence Street, directly across from # 43. Winnie McHugh counts Betty as a dear friend, and visits her regularly. Betty’s long-time knowledge of the neighborhood will turn out to be a key in the telling of the mystery.

Throughout the book, in the background, is a story of a man who recently bought a small house in the country. He’s just moved his family (wife and 5 children) out the 2-bedroom tenement flat they’d been living in. Aiden, the oldest child of the family and the only son, is helping his father work up a patch of ground so that they might plant a vegetable garden. Aiden and his father make a rather unfortunate discovery in the form of a buried suitcase which contains the bodies of twin infants. This unfortunate new homeowner is never named, but his gruesome discovery turns out to be very important later on. How this side-line story is related to the main plot of the book is revealed in the final chapters of the book, and for me it added a LOT in terms of getting to the truths of the main story.

Since this IS a mystery, I’ll tell you nothing of the main plot. I will say that the story unfolds in a very subtle way and that there are twists and turns that I’m not sure even the great Dame Agatha Christie could have come up with.

Overall I’m going to give this book 4 stars out of 5. The only reason I’m not going with 5 out of 5 is that there are numerous vignettes within the book that are flashbacks or memories of the main characters’ pasts. There are elements within those vignettes that by the end of the book will prove to have been important clues, but it would have been nice if all the past-history stuff could have been in one section of the book together rather than scattered throughout. The time-travel got a bit disconcerting on occasion.

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Reading Progress

July 7, 2019 – Started Reading
July 9, 2019 – Shelved
July 9, 2019 – Finished Reading

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