The Music Makers (Timeshift Victorian Mysteries)

Written by Alexandra Walsh
Review by Fiona Alison

In her second Victorian time-shift novel, Walsh again uses the dual-timeline narrative motif, incorporating some characters from The Wind Chime. In 2020, Eleanor Wilder relocates to her family home in Pembrokeshire. As a collector of theatrical programmes and Victorian clothing, she is intrigued to find that some of her auction purchases and a photograph in her mother’s possession, bear the name Esme Blood. Eleanor is an amateur Tarot reader who believes wholeheartedly in spiritual connections, but why is Esme calling to her, and what message is she trying to impart?

Esme’s story, beginning in 1875, is revealed through diaries Eleanor has unwittingly purchased, along with some of Esme’s other possessions, including a personalised Tarot set. The diaries illuminate Esme’s career as a singer with a theatrical group owned by her adoptive family; her timeless love for Aaron Maclean, a glamorous conman who procures exclusive entertainment for clients with eclectic tastes; her fraught marriage into a depraved family; and her eventual discovery of her own history.

Walsh’s research into Victorian-era theatre is very thorough. Esme’s story is vivid and compelling, full of adventure and intrigue, and the way the threads connect is fascinating. I was struck by the cryptic Tarot readings but found the ‘why’ of Esme’s otherworldly contact elusive. I was less convinced by Eleanor’s contemporary story with Arthur. The resolution of the relationship issue felt contrived, and Esme was constantly pulling me back to her. This is a story of family secrets and consequences both good and bad, and that aspect is intriguingly well drawn. This novel will appeal to fans of Paula Brackston’s Found Things series, which dabbles in connections often dismissed as coincidence, where physical objects echo through time. This is a standalone which can be read independently of its prequel.