Violet Hill – a literary adventure of identity, deception, danger and detection
“Henrietta McKervey is a storyteller of rare gifts. I love her writing. Violet Hill is a wonderfully assured and compelling novel, so evocative of a London that has long ceased to be, yet crackling on every page with urgently contemporary resonance and meaning. I thought it skilfully organised, thrilling, generously abundant with readerly pleasures and put together with the skill of a writer who means business and is here to stay. Seriously – I’m not kidding — I could not put it down.” Joseph O’Connor
“McKervey is a skilful, intelligent storyteller who looks at the world from fresh perspectives; She raises questions about the gap between appearance and reality, truth and fiction, surveillance and security that will stay with a reader long after they finish reading this novel.” Lia Mills
It’s December 1918 and post-War London is grieving, the city a wound whose dressing was taken off too soon. Violet Hill, the only female private detective in the city, is hired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s business manager to uncover spiritual trickery he believes is deceiving his employer. Conan Doyle is desperate to contact his dead son. As Violet is lured into London’s spiritualism scene, she discovers that there are powerful vested interests involved in maintaining certain delusions, and that even the most astute eye is not always beyond deception. Or peril.
One hundred years later. Susanna is a Super-recogniser, one of an elite Met Police team of officers with extraordinary powers for facial recognition. After an apparently freak accident causes a head injury, this ability suddenly disappears. At home on sick leave, she begins to dig into the past lives of the Victorian house she rents in London’s Primrose Hill. As Susanna gets tangled in unexpected connections to a distant past, unawares to her a dangerous criminal, who stood to lose by a case she was working on before her injury, is at large. She no longer recognises him – but he knows who she is and where she lives.
The Heart of Everything
When Mags Jensen disappears, soon after learning she has early-stage dementia, her three grown up children are brought together to search for their mother. Over several days, old tensions rise to the surface, harking back to an earlier tragedy that splintered the family.
The Heart of Everything is a taut and compelling account of the nature of family relationships and the uneasy grasp of the past over the present. Powerful revelations take hold between the siblings and their efforts to find Mags become increasingly frantic as they are forced to ask: will they ever see their lost mother again?
This contemporary story of three estranged siblings reluctantly forced back together to hunt for their vanished mother was described as, ‘a wonderful, memorable book – a tour-de-force’ by Frank McGuinness.
‘Henrietta McKervey is brimming over with promise. She has wit, imagination, and an understanding of human beings, the hallmark of the true novelist.’ Éilís Ní Dhuibhne in her Irish Times review of The Heart of Everything, March 2016. It was featured on RTÉ’s Arena, and was May’s Irish Times Book Club Choice. During the month a series of articles and interviews (contributors included Professor Margaret Kelleher, Ivana Bacik, Kathleen MacMahon and Susan McKay) explored different aspects of the book, ending with a live podcast recording in the Irish Writers’ Centre on Thursday May 26th.
What Becomes Of Us
In 1965 Dublin was a city on the cusp of change in a country preparing to commemorate the 1916 Rising. Maria Mills arrives from London with only a suitcase and her young daughter. Scared but hopeful, she is intent on a new life, one in which she can hide from her past. She has carefully constructed a story, based on a lie that even her daughter believes is true. When she gets a job in the fledgling broadcaster Telifis Eireann, she finds herself working on a 1916 Rising commemoration programme. Maria meets Tess McDermott, a former member of Cumann na mBan, the Irish republican women’s paramilitary group. Tess saw active service in the Rising yet angrily refuses to admit her involvement. Maria realises that Tess too is hiding a secret that must be told.
Set against the backdrop of stifling social and religious mores, alongside a defiant new wave of women’s liberation, What Becomes of Us is the story of the struggle to carve out a new identity when the past refuses to let go.
“Beautifully written… simple spare style. A lovely, lovely novel… Henrietta McKervey: I would really be watching her.” (Cathy Kelly speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke, RTÉ Radio 1)
“This impressive debut marks the writer out as a talent able to tell a complex story with intelligence and humour.” (Sunday Times)
“Have just finished this book. I could not put it down. I found it gripping and very moving. I was particularly impressed with the account of climbing Nelson’s Pillar having done it myself when I was eleven!” (Amazon review by Gloria Carter)