Reviews from Amazon.co.uk
I found myself completely hooked by this fast-paced book from the first page. It is so good on so many levels. The mystery at the heart of the book takes us back to the time of Marlowe and Shakespeare but it can be read without any knowledge of the historical background because it is such a good mystery story/thriller in its own right. You will not want to put this down.
Helen Oddfellow is the new Morse
Helen Oddfellow is who Dan Brown’s Professor Robert Langdon from The Da Vinci Code would have been if he were younger, female and travelled using an Oyster Card (London bus ticket) rather than by air. I am a bit of history buff and Anna Sayburn Lane’s Elizabethan and religious history is impeccable and I enjoy her use of London landmarks that I know so well. A brilliant book and a great character. I am looking forwards to the further adventures of Helen Oddfellow.
This is a book that is made for TV … I hope the BBC does pick it up because it would make wonderful television and I think that Helen Oddfellow could be a good replacement for Morse.
Gripping and fascinating – a great read
An absolutely fascinating and gripping tale of two historians who are tracking down a lost play by Christopher Marlowe, and the historical ramifications that lost play might have. It’s difficult to say more without giving spoilers!
From page one this book had me gripped. I was rooting for the protagonists and desperately hoping they found what they were looking for without some of the darker characters catching up with them. At times I had no idea who could and couldn’t be trusted. And I was devastated by the twist in the middle!
A thriller centring on a historical quest – this is how Dan Brown’s books should have been written. Highly recommended.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Lane explains the history behind the mystery well, so you don’t have to know it already (though familiarity is no disadvantage), but you do have to be willing to engage with life towards the end of Elizabeth I’s reign. Lane is particularly good at locations, both in south London and Kent: the book has a great feeling of ‘place’. It doesn’t seem to matter whether one is familiar with the actual place or not, but the feeling always gives a book grounding.
This book should appeal to those who enjoy David Hewson’s Nic Costa and Iain Pears’ Jonathan Argyll books, which I enjoy even though I don’t know Rome at all well.
Gripping, thrilling and beautifully written.
I haven’t been so gripped by a book for ages. I read it in 24 hours! Beautifully written and impeccably researched. Read it!!!!
Loved the pace, the historical facts, the characters. Read it in 1 go!
Can see this easily being picked up by the BBC for their next thrilling series.
Hope there will be more to read soon!
If you liked the Da Vinci Code you will love this.
Literary mystery that grips you from the first page
It’s always great when a book grips you from the first page. Anna Sayburn Lane’s first chapter not only grips you, but grabs you, shocks you, and keeps you wanting to know more.
The crux of her story is a tour guide meets an historian and they attempt to unveil a literary mystery. Meanwhile, a journalist is attempting to expose racial hatred at a mosque. So how do these threads fit together? That’s the joy and mystery of the book and why I turned page after page to find the answers to questions so carefully created by the author.
Her debut novel reads as the voice of a seasoned crime/murder mystery writer. There’s history too, and literature. Pick your genre, she covers it, and with well researched detail and care. But this is no dry, historical piece of fiction. Characters leap out of the page,at you. Characters you warm to, and fear for. This is not a book for the faint hearted as there is darkness, death and destruction. And also this is not a book for skim readers – miss a passage of this novel and you miss another plot twist. There are as many plot twists in this tale as the winding London lanes the heroine of the book Helen has traveled as a guide in her quest to inspire tourists of her love of Elizabethan author and play write Chistopher Marlowe.
Marlowe is ever present in this novel, a dark, dynamic and – given his most famous work Dr Faustus – a dangerous force that influences the vivid characters’ fortunes, for good and for ill.
Sayburn Lane is a true story teller. And after you read this story, you’ll want more.
A gripping literary mystery full of past and present intrigue
This beautifully written thriller had me hooked from the first chapter – in which a man makes a gruesome entrance into a pub in Deptford. I soon became so immersed, I turned off my phone! Anna Sayburn Lane manages to grip, terrify and educate all at the same time. Unlawful Things took me straight back into the dark whispering corners of playwright Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan London, while always propelling me forward alongside his clever, plucky 21st century fan Helen Oddfellow. This is one of those mysteries that doesn’t cheat or insult the reader: all the clues are there, but you have to have your wits about you if you’re going to keep up with Helen Oddfellow’s forensic scrutiny of ‘unlawful things’ past and present. I hope we are going to see more of her!
I would recommend you set aside a weekend when you have very little else to do as you will not be able to put this book down once you start reading. The story is fascinating, puzzling and educational, all at the same time. It is beautifully written so that the prose does not intrude on the mind as you unconsciously absorb the story. The characters are believable so that you engage with their emotions, particularly the surprise twist in the middle of the book. It is a thoroughly good read. Can’t wait for more.
Unlawful Things weaves together an Elizabethan mystery involving the playwright Christopher Marlow, and via a connection to Becket and Canterbury, a modern tale of race hate and religious intolerance. The backdrop, and almost like a character in itself, is London – most particularly South of the River, with all it’s historical murk and modern grit. The story pivots around the splendid protagonist, Helen Oddfellow- a lonely scholar with a troubled backstory. When she meets Richard, an equally erudite and folorn historian, their mutual quest to solve some unanswered questions and uncover a lost Marlowe play propels the story into an entertaining series of discoveries and a growing mutual attraction. Romance is tantalisingly afoot when things take a turn for the worst. Quite what some modern far right thugs have to fear from the endeavours of our duo is not clear, and Sayburn Lane keeps us guessing in a plot which is twisty and full of suspense
The second half of the book is action packed such that I sometimes struggled to keep up, but the quality of the prose, with it’s pacy and often acutely observed moments, kept my attention. This is sassy genre fiction with a real intellectual hinterland – intriguing, complex, and often emotionally powerful. A great read, and you might just learn something, I certainly did.
Anna Sayburn-Lane has written an intriguing and assured first thriller which leave the reader eagerly looking forward to her next offering. This is an exceptionally well researched book, mixing sound historical fact with some acknowledged licence albeit the latter is never so far fetched as to be beyond belief. What is particularly good (and a rare experience) is the way in which the author blends traditional and modern approaches to crime/thriller writing. Just as, for example, the reader believes he or she has settled in to a cosy whodunnit worthy of a classic 1920’s drama, the author suddenly plunges dramatically in to Wire in the Blood territory bringing the reader up with a jolt. This is clever writing and to achieve it without her book becoming far fetched or disjointed is a real credit to this accomplished author. It is a breath of fresh air in a genre which has, perhaps, become too stereotyped.
The book rattles along at an comfortable pace such that it is very easy to lose track of time and find several chapters have been consumed. I readily own up to a distant connection with one of the principal places in Unlawful Things but hasten to assure that had I not enjoyed this book I would have said so as others can testify. Well done Anna and please don’t keep us waiting too long for Book 2
A real page turner – beguilingly modern Helen Oddfellow stalking a 400 year old literary mystery…
A great read from the first page… .. From the opening shadows of Borough Market and Deptford, Anna Sayburn Lane draws the reader effortlessly along the road to Canterbury and potential destruction In the shadow of Kit Marlowe’s untimely death in 1593. It’s a page turning thriller, true – but the author has packed in so much more for the journey: a beguiling heroine in Helen Oddfellow; promising love interest; richly realised locations; chilling villains…. but what really sets this apart is the detailed literary and historical research which roots this modern thriller firmly in a four hundred year old mystery. Ms Sayburn Lane wears her learning lightly, but her passion for and intimate knowledge of Marlowe’s work leave the reader in no doubt as to where her heart really lies… Kit Marlowe is THE MAN! Genuinely absorbing; deeply memorable…….
I have just finished reading this brilliant first novel and now know what I am buying everyone for Christmas. It is a proper page-turner of a crime story, with a Greenwich-based heroine who uncovers secrets about the murder of 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe, while tackling racist thugs, delving into religious schisms and falling in love. It is exciting and at times very moving. The wonderful juxta position of past and present day London, the careful depiction of the city’s historical treasures and the fabulous modern day twist at the end – my kind of book.
Loved this book. A clever mystery thriller set in the present day but investigating England’s medieval past. A great main character & theme. Dan Brown eat your heart out, as I much prefer this religious / literary quest. Highly recommended xxx
Great read. Well written and hard to put down. I’ve recommended this to all of my literary friends.
It’s one of the best books l’ve read, has you hooked from the start. l recommend you get this book without delay. Truly amazing. Fabulous author, can’t wait for her next book.
Got this as a present at a time when I didn’t have much time to read, but the little time I had was spent reading about Helen Oddfellow’s adventure. Very visual, easy to imagine it adapted to the screen, small or big. Ms Lane has set the bar quite high for any sequel, but I’m impatient to read what she comes up with.
Reviews from Amazon.com
Terrific historical mystery/thriller
Combining plentiful action and an intriguing puzzle around a possibly lost Marlowe play, this is a great read.
Engaging and fast moving all the way through and a treat for anglophiles
A female historian who gives walking tours of London finds out about a lost play and that search takes her to a grand English country house, libraries and ancient graveyards. She is aided by a enterprising group of journalists, researchers and police against a group of formidable villains. Great supporting multicultural characters and a deep dive into English literature and its secrets. Excellent book.