When Barbour introduced the True Colors series, I was immediately intrigued. True crime is an interesting genre, and one that I have both read about and watched documentaries about over the years. Having a basis of factual information, this subject tends toward more neutral ground with regard to narrative voice and presentation, and part of what makes True Colors so unique is the Christian aspect. The characters and precise situations are fictional, but the crimes themselves actually happened, and the merging of sordid history and Christian perspective offers a different angle and a novel approach. This has become my favorite Barbour series, with Daughters of the Mayflower a close second.
“Heaven stank of tallow and shone a honey glow.” From that inimitable first line, Angie Dicken’s “The Yellow Lantern” shoots out of the gate and doesn’t relent until the final page. There is no easing into the plot; rather, readers find themselves thrust headlong into a nightmare situation straight from the nineteenth century. Being buried alive was a legitimate concern in the years before modern technology and an increasing understanding of the human body, and in this age of nascent medical knowledge, doctors needed fresh bodies to advance their studies—bodies supplied to them by aptly-named body snatchers. In 1824 Massachusetts, Josephine Clayton unwittingly finds herself a part of this practice after being quite literally taken for dead and buried and ending up on the table of her employer, Dr. Chadwick. In order to save her own life, she must agree to go to work at a factory mill and pose as a mourner to signal a body snatcher to obtain her replacement. However, her circumstances become more convoluted as she finds herself drawn more deeply into a web of deception.
“The Yellow Lantern” sets forth a plausible scenario in which Christian, good-hearted people may become ensnared in conspiracies and duplicitous dealings. Josie experiences remorse and a stinging conscience as events escalate: “No matter if she played the part of a mill girl, she could not ignore the tangled thread of deceit that wrapped around her soul as tightly as the cotton on the bobbins”. Her proficiency as an herbal healer conflicts with the job she is to perform, as does a budding romance. The description of the cotton mill, with motes and dust thick in the air and obscuring the windows, is eye-opening, as is the lack of recourse for those without positions of authority and prestige in society. Not knowing whom to trust adds to the suspense, creating a sinister, murky atmosphere and making this a very difficult book to put down. Fans of true crime, factory life, nineteenth century customs, and romance will not want to miss out on this illuminating book!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and CelebrateLit and was under no obligation to post a review.