The Death of Lyndon Wilder & the Consequences Thereof

Written by E.A. Dineley
Review by E.M. Powell

I don’t normally comment on format, but I felt I had to with this novel. Its compact size (albeit with quite a sturdy thickness!) and eye-catching, period-appropriate cover are particularly appealing. The publisher’s blurb was a little misleading, however, with descriptions such as ‘Hauntingly written’ and ‘Nothing is as it seems.’ It led me to expect a historical murder mystery, rather than the absorbing family drama it actually is.

It is set in 1813, during the Napoleonic Wars. Lyndon Wilder was the beloved heir to the family estate of Ridley in Wiltshire and has been killed in battle. The novel follows the aftermath of the impact of his death on his family and on Anna Arbuthnot, the newly-appointed governess of Lyndon’s now-orphaned daughter.

Dineley does a wonderful job with characterisation. Lady Charles, Lyndon’s grieving mother, should be sympathetic, but Dineley doesn’t flinch from giving us instead a monster of self-centred behaviour. It is also a keenly observed portrayal of the ‘golden boy’ phenomenon that exists within families. Other characters are similarly well-developed and believable.

The plot is undramatic, which is part of this book’s appeal. It is a slow burn of revelations of a family’s true relationships, rather than what they want the world to see. Much of this view is provided by Anna, an outsider to the family. Dineley also flies in the face of current writing fashion by writing the book in the omniscient point of view. This adds to the atmosphere rather than detracts from it. I hope we see more from this talented debut author.