Dangerous Women came to me from the publishers via Netgalley, after I fell for the blurb. I’m so glad I did!
by Hope Adams
Nearly two hundred condemned women on board a sailing ship bound for Australia. One of them is a murderer. From debut author Hope Adams comes a thrilling novel based on the 1841 voyage of the convict ship Rajah, about confinement, hope, and the terrible things we do to survive.
London, 1841. One hundred eighty Englishwomen file aboard the Rajah, embarking on a three-month voyage to the other side of the world.
They’re daughters, sisters, mothers–and convicts.
Transported for petty crimes.
Except one of them has a deadly secret, and will do anything to flee justice.
As the Rajah sails farther from land, the women forge a tenuous kinship. Until, in the middle of the cold and unforgiving sea, a young mother is mortally wounded, and the hunt is on for the assailant before he or she strikes again.
Each woman called in for question has something to fear: Will she be attacked next? Will she be believed? Because far from land, there is nowhere to flee, and how can you prove innocence when you’ve already been found guilty? [goodreads]
It says something about a book when I have to keep reading it in spite of not having reading glasses that work!
Dangerous Women is everything the blurb says, and more. We switch forwards and backwards between the transport of the women from Newgate prison to a pivotal event and its aftermath, taking the narrative from one of three women involved in the event. Slowly we understand the key players, the wondrous range of characters incarcerated in the prison ship, and a few of the men around the place too. Each character is fully rounded, emaciated, toothless, bitter, hopeful, resigned, a victim of justice, or hoping that justice will prevail, despite the blinkered eyes of the male society.
The pivotal event occurs fairly early, so we also have a tantalising glimpse of who it might be. The whodunnit laid in front of us develops through the words of some unreliable narrators as well as the women who are formally questioned by one bigoted and two open-minded men. And we feel the frustration of the matron as she fails to make her observations and experience heard.
This is a wonderful study of life in a closed community. It places people from the underside of life, with misfits from the upper side, too. I exclaimed some ‘oh-no’s’ as the story unfolded, but no, another twist awaited. Even in the denouement there are further twists, and things the reader learns that lie hidden from the rest. You end wondering what life awaits these folk in Van Diemans Land, rooting for them.
To read that the ship, its logs, and the names of the women transported really existed adds to the poignancy. The author points out, the tale is of her own imagination to fit the facts. It’s an excellent tale, excellently written. Add Dangerous Women to your TBRs!Book Review | Dangerous Women by Hope Adams: 'fully rounded, emaciated, toothless, bitter, hopeful, resigned, victims of justice' and that's just the characters! Wonderful story–5 Stars #DangerousWomen #historical #crime Click To Tweet