Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers

Hester and Harriet are two elderly widowed sisters who move in together in a comfortable cottage in an English village. Their lives are also comfortable – predictable and safe. The novel HandHopens with them both contemplating the yearly dreaded family Christmas lunch with their well-meaning, but annoying cousins. Which all sounds a bit ho-hum, but their lives are turned upside down when they stop to pick up a young, refugee mother with a baby sitting at a bus stop. Then their cousin’s rebellious fifteen-year old son also arrives on their doorstep seeking sanctuary. It turns out Daria is being hunted by others, and her story is rather more complicated than at first appears. Daria’s story is gradually revealed, and the sisters and their nephew, find themselves in a cat-and-mouse chase to outwit those who are seeking Daria.

This is a cosy English mystery, but is in no way bland or over-sweet, saved by its drama and comedy, wonderful language, and idiosyncratic characters. There are some standout lines delivered by the articulate, intelligent, eccentric Finbar, who also happens to be the village tramp. The sisters are very different to each other, and we learn a little more about them as the novel progresses. The novel touches on some serious issues, enough to raise them without belabouring them.

An enjoyable, funny and charming read. You may find yourself reaching for your dictionary every now and then.


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