The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress
As its title implies, Murray’s novel transports readers to the heady 1860’s in London, a time when artists such as Rossetti and Millais, and designers such as William Morris, were leaving their mark on the art world. In Murray’s vivid story, Rachel Faraday is a determined and independent woman who is trying to re-invent herself (after a number of difficult experiences in her life) as a designer of fabrics. Fate throws Harry Twyfold in her way, and when he is accused of murder, Rachel mounts her own personal campaign to prove his innocence – not because of any warmer feelings for him (or so she tries to convince herself), but because she knows he did not do it. As she delves deeper into her investigation, Rachel comes into close contact with Rossetti – brought to wonderful, devilish, life by Murray – and must also dare the squalid neighborhoods of Southwark to find the truth. The ending comes as quite a surprise – entirely believable, but still a surprise.
The book, though fitted with both an unexciting title and a clichéd headless-woman cover illustration, is well-written, with delicious descriptions, a formidable cast of characters and an excellent plot line. The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress is a delightful read.