Book Review: The Unseeing, by Anna Mazzola

Publisher:  Tinder Press

Publication date:  14th July 2016

The Unseeing My Review

The Unseeing by Anna MazzolaIn this intriguing conundrum, the bones of a true Victorian crime are impressively dressed with fictional liberties in an arduous fight for justice. The author’s embellishments may offer an extra twist of the knife to a real murder investigation (The Edgware Road Murder), but undoubtedly The Unseeing is as curious as any you may read.

According to the prosecution one of the accused wears many faces. Sarah Gale: mother, seamstress, victim, nurse, liar, prostitute, haunted by her past. It’s clear that some considerable peeling of layers will be required to reveal the true person behind the wall silence she is hiding behind.

In 1837 she was imprisoned in the hostile, putrid walls of Newgate Prison in London to await her fate among the piercing screams from the other inmates. The male jurors who convicted her decided she was a calculating woman, whose reputation had fallen long ago. Or was this simply a witch hunt to provide an example to others of her gender with ‘loose morals’ ?

After she was incarcerated for aiding and abetting James Greenacre in the grisly murder and dismemberment of Hannah Brown, his wife to be, Greenacre maintained that his lover, Sarah Gale, played no part in the crime. Despite his protest both received the death penalty.

Most are unsympathetic to her situation leaving only a few diehards campaigning for her freedom. All hope of reprieve is lost, that is until she learns that her sentence is to be reviewed. Naïve criminal barrister, Edmund Fleetwood, is appointed to independently re-evaluate the evidence and report his verdict. Although he is keen to make his mark on the legal world, Sarah Gale will test both his professional and personal resolve, as the grey areas of this challenging investigation are quite revealing. I cringed throughout his endeavours when his patronising father breathed down his neck to ensure Edmund puts in a worthy performance of someone afforded such a public responsibility.

In the eyes of the public she is already condemned as callous and despicable, yet Edmund is conflicted as he senses there’s more to her story, she’s just not allowing anyone to see it. During their meetings he gently teases information from her. These interviews offer a sketchy peek into both Sarah’s and Edmund’s parental relationships, but oddly she never volunteers anything that directly helps his investigation, and ultimately herself. The only fact you never doubt is that Gale has been separated from her young son and she feared what would become if him if her sentence was carried out. At the end of his seemingly impossible task I was willing the emotionally exhausted lawyer to draw the right conclusions about so many more things, mainly for his own sake.

The Unseeing is  atmospheric and utterly fascinating. There’s an interesting bonus as the chapters are headed with snippets from the actual trial that took place, with others quoting from newspaper reports to compliment the next step of the journey.  It all combines brilliantly to create a cunning historical mystery, which is certainly worth a look if you get the chance. Nicely done.

Rating:  4/5

(I received a digital copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.)

The Unseeing Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola’s THE UNSEEING is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. Perfect for any reader of Sarah Waters or Antonia Hodgson.

‘With this intricately woven tale of trust, self-trust and deceit, Anna Mazzola brings a gritty realism to Victorian London. Beautifully written and cleverly plotted, this is a stunning debut, ranked amongst the best’ MANDA SCOTT

After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?

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The Unseeing Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Anna lives in Camberwell, London, not far from where the murder at the heart of The Unseeing took place. The Unseeing is Anna’s first novel. She is currently working on her second, which is about a collector of folk tales and fairy lore on the Isle of Skye who realises that girls are going missing.

Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a criminal justice solicitor. She divides her time between writing, reading, lawyering, and child-wrangling.

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