The Secret of the Treasure Keepers

Written by A. M. Howell Rachel Corcoran (illus.)
Review by Ann Lazim

In A.M. Howell’s fourth historical novel, each of which has been set in a different year in the 20th century, she takes us to February 1948. While waiting for her mother, who is a volunteer at the British Museum and keen to get a paid job there, Ruth takes an urgent phone call from a woman in the Cambridgeshire Fens claiming a precious archaeological find on her farmland.

Ruth and her mother decide to investigate for themselves. What they discover relates to more than one mystery around human relationships as well as the origins of the treasure. Their actions stretch credulity just a little (recognised at one point in the story by Ruth herself!) but, placed in the context of their determined characters, the reader is swept along with them and anxious to see how matters will be resolved.

Period detail is woven in well—life during the war in country and city is compared and contrasted during conversations between Ruth, who remained in London with her mother for the duration, and the people she meets at Rook Farm, one of whom is a Land Girl. The circumstances of the lives of individuals in the story are very much related to the specific time at which it is set due to the changes in society wrought by the recently ended Second World War. Reference is made to the imminent arrival of the NHS when discussion about paying for medical treatment arises.

The novel was inspired by the author’s own interest in archaeology and in particular by the story behind the discovery of the Mildenhall treasure in Suffolk in 1942, and in an afterword she provides links for readers to follow up any interest they have in further digging and delving. These are supplemented by related weblinks compiled by the publisher.