The Locksmith’s Daughter will be one of those historical fiction novels that sticks with me for a long time. Author Karen Brooks introduces us to the character of Mallory Bright just as she’s returning home to 1580s London after a major reputation-ruining scandal. The transition proves difficult for her, though she finds some solace in using her rare locksmithing skills, having spent her childhood apprenticed to her father. Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, is an old friend and client of Mallory’s father and sees her potential when she masterfully cracks a lock on a mysterious box. When her father seeks Sir Francis’ help, this is the catalyst by which Mallory enters the world of espionage in England at a time when Catholics are viewed as the most imminent threat to the crown.
This book is probably one of my favorite reads so far this year. It’s lengthy at 500+ pages, but I felt that every piece of the story was necessary in the vast amounts of world and character building. I could tell that Brooks invested a great deal of time and research into the characters (both real and fictional) and historical period. The detail in her writing was incredible; she wove in Mallory’s fictional story into real events that occurred in England between 1580 and 1590, like those leading to the public execution of 3 Jesuit priests, and real places, such as the Tower of London. Mallory and the supporting characters were also well developed – we’re able to envision Mallory’s journey as a scorned woman, a spy, and, ultimately, figuring out what and who she values most. I was hooked into the intrigue along the twists the story took – even having some reference to the history of the time, I wasn’t always able to predict how things would turn out. I also found it interesting to see parallels to modern-day politics that will keep this story relevant. The only reason I took off .25 stars is because there were decisions Mallory made near the latter part of the book that I felt were off-character – that didn’t make sense in the context of how her character grew and gained closure on her past.