Member Reviews

Elizabeth has done it again!

I love her gothic, eerie, settings. Her characters are clever, diverse and relatable. You feel connections with some and despise others!

I loved the history, the storyline, the twist, the fast paced action. It was fab!

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This book has everything you could want from a gothic, historical fiction read. Victorian London, a run down old house, cemeteries, a mausoleum, a first wife who died in mysterious circumstances, secret pasts and a character you’ll love to hate. Elizabeth Macneal ticks all the boxes for me and she is fast becoming a go to author for historical fiction.

Crawford is perfectly villainous, while Bonnie is a plucky young woman who desperately wants to break free from the preordained path which has been agreed for her. The fate of young women at that time is something which is explored through the characters of Bonnie and Cissie.

If the gothic setting and cast of eccentric characters aren’t enough, there are a few twists in the tale which will keep you on your toes and the pages turning.

I really enjoyed it, if Jane Eyre and Rebecca are your bag then this one is for you!

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Overall I enjoyed this book which is well researched and historically accurate. The house and cemetery were beautifully painted and a rich setting for the story and the author is a brilliant and poetic writer.

Unfortunately I found that it dragged a bit, it seemed very long with not a lot of action. Perhaps I've just read more pacey gothic novels recently. I kept waiting for something more, it fell a bit flat with the action at the end too little too late, as I hadn’t felt enough tension build.

Bonnie was an interesting and relateable character and Crawford was sufficiently vile. Other characters seemed superfluous, almost as if their storylines were cut in the editing process.

A fantastic premise with slightly sluggish delivery not saved by a slightly predictable ending.

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‘But there was nowhere to hide. If only the house might sprout another turret, grow another room, and seal them inside.’

I was drawn to Elizabeth Macneal when ‘The Doll Factory’ appeared in the library with that wondrous cover, and I gobbled up Tuppence Middleton’s narration of ‘Circus of Wonders’ when it came out, both of which were sublime. So, when ‘The Burial Plot’ popped up on NetGalley, I couldn’t help myself.

But – wow! The blurb gives absolutely everything away! If you can avoid reading too much about the book, you might enjoy it better. I went in blindly, having requested a copy solely on the strength of it being the new Elizabeth Macneal. And having avoided any write-ups, I was fantastically defenceless against Macneal’s powers of atmosphere and character creation. She cinches both expertly in the opening line: ‘It was close to nightfall and Bonnie was killing moths in the bedroom that had once belonged to Mr Moncrief’s dead wife.’ Captivating!

In the past, I’ve been engrossed by Macneal’s reflections on women’s views and women’s situations in the 1800s. Here, she sets this against an exploration of contemporaneous attitudes towards death and burial. This just adds to what I can only call her superlative capacity for writing atmosphere. In ‘The Burial Plot’, I found narrative and atmosphere clasped closely together – as though atmosphere were the line against which the plot taughtened and pulled.

And this hooking-together of plot and atmosphere is so effective. It came to a point when reading where I became aware of crescendos in atmosphere parallelling the plot points in Macneal’s structure. In fact, I realised, this is Macneal’s gift for making reading seem as natural as breathing: the first time I noticed, I’d hit an important threshold when our protagonist makes an accidental discovery in the glasshouse, and when I happened to glance down, I wasn't surprised to see that my progress was exactly 20%. And this happened again and again. Big plot points, big crescendos in atmosphere, tend to peak at nice round, even points in the book’s progress (I think an exceptional one came at exactly 70%, if I remember rightly). Something about that - even if you’re not consciously aware of it – makes the text resonate with a natural ‘rightness’.

Similarly, I felt my sensitivities towards characters changing and developing organically as Bonnie led me through the movements of the plot. I was entirely happy with Bonnie figuratively taking me by the hand and showing me other characters’ sympathies and feelings. She is a natural witness, yet perhaps veering too much towards the part of an onlooker, at certain points. Other reviewers have articulated their uncertainty regarding the ending of the novel, and I couldn’t help but feel, after all, that there seemed to be something missing in terms of Bonnie’s agency, at the end.

My thanks to Pan Macmillan for an advanced copy to review.

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Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher Picador/Pan MacMillan for the digital ARC, it has not affected my honest review.

TW: implied rape, sexual assault, animal death and abuse, injury, abusive relationships

In 1839 London, Bonnie and Crawford live a life filled with crime, trickery and theft. Bonnie believes that Crawford is the love of her life and her saviour after she escaped marriage to an old vicar and travelled to London for a new life. However, after one of Crawford’s schemes goes wrong and Bonnie is forced to fend for herself, a gentleman ends up dead. Bonnie needs to run and hide before the hangman can find her- and Crawford has the solution. She will become a lady’s maid to the eccentric sixteen-year-old daughter of a near-destitute architect who faces ruin after the suicide of his excessive wife. Upon arrival at the Gothic, crumbling house called Endellion in Twickenham, Bonnie establishes a new life for herself: she grows close to Cissie, who writes love letters to herself in the same style her mother did, and gradually to Mr Moncrieff who spends his days drawing elaborate mausoleums for his dead wife Josephine as the family fortune vanishes. Soon enough Bonnie thinks she’s free then Crawford arrives, placing himself into the household as her brother. His plans become more complicated: he wants Bonnie to seduce and marry Moncrieff so they can take it all. At the same time, Bonnie’s idea to build an enormous, peaceful cemetery for the people of London in the abandoned grounds to save the house seems like it’s going to become real- but at every turn, Crawford is plotting his next trick, and it becomes clear that he has a vendetta against Mr Moncrieff that none of them will be able to escape.

I raced through this book within a few days, unable to put it down until I found out what would happen to Bonnie, Cissie and Moncrieff. This is a brutal representation of the realities of the rich and poor in 1830s London while also showing the strength and determination of women in a terrible era. Crawford is a brilliant villain, at once convincing and charming but also violent and manipulative. I really loved the way that the house and its mysteries were written and the way that Bonnie gradually discovered more about the family was so tense. Cissie and Bonnie’s relationship was gorgeous, there was a point where all I wanted was for the two of them to be happy. The themes of dark truths, secrets and lies are woven together into a slow burn, historical mystery with deeply complex characters- while also teaching the reader about the creation of Victorian cemeteries and the importance of believing in the best.

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In Victorian London, Bonnie Fairchild and her two friends, the Macchiavellian Crawford and bullish Rex, have a steady “business” going, fleecing amorous old men…until one such event goes horribly wrong.
To remove Bonnie from possible prosecution, Crawford manages to insert her as a lady’s maid into the household of Mr Moncrieff at his country mansion.
But Crawford has much bigger plans, fuelled by his past.
Bonnie’s naïve loyalty and Crawford’s cunning are well portrayed as the plot slowly unfolds: “And she realized that there was no turning back: that they were like a great weight on a hill, and they were only gathering momentum, plunging further and further down.” Watching Bonnie grow from a timid mouse to a courageous woman was very gratifying.
Cleverly set at the time of the Victorian building boom, edifices for all purposes, even for the dead - enterprises to make a man…or ruin him.

As far as Gothic novels go, “The Burial Plot” is at the top of the genre.

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I was so lucky to get a copy of this via NetGalley. I loved the book. I think her writing gets better and better if that is possible. I was so hooked in terms of what would happen to all the characters. I don’t want to give any spoilers but I was happy with the ending.

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This is such a great gothic novel, I really enjoyed the premise of it with the graveyard connection which isn't something I'd ever thought much about before. The characters were excellent and it was definitely a page turner as I was desperate to know the fate of Bonnie. Highly recommended!

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Another fabulous tale of historical fiction.
Not quite as enthralling as The Doll Factory but still a great read .

Thankyou NetGalley for an ARC in return for an honest review

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i think that Victorian Age was obsessed by death and the rites of death. This is a novel about the rites of death, how to honour those who passed, and grief,
Plus a con woman who's trying to understand what's going on in the weird and bereaved family she's working for.
A fascinating and intriguing story.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Macneal excels at gothic thrillers and this is no exception. Set in 19th Century London, runaway Bonnie finds herself embroiled in a life of deception and thievery. In order to escape arrest, she poses as a lady’s maid in a fine house near Richmond. Here she endeavours to uncover the mystery around the death of the former mistress of the house and in doing so puts all around her at risk. A great read.
My thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own unbiased opinion.

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'The Burial Plot by Elizabeth Macneal. Just look at the cover 😱 this started as a slow burn with a lot of rich historic detail that we know and love from Macneal. The obvious parallel is Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca' particularly around the mysterious circumstances of Mr Moncrieff's wife, who was believed to have drowned by her husband's hand. The house, Endellion house (which I love is based on a real place) holds something for Crawford, a dream he believes is his, and he will stop at nothing to get it. Themes of: death, murder, suicide, treachery, deceit, violence, illegitimate children, historical fiction, pregnancy, Gothic horror

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I enjoyed this novel and it was such a page turner that I felt compelled to read it straight away, and not put it down until I had finished it.
Bonnie was a believable character, and it was well written as well. Highly recommended.

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Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Oh I so wanted to love this book having enjoyed previous works by this author but I just couldn't get into it. I found the story very slow and Bonnie just wasn't a captivating character.. I'll give it another go when it comes out in paperback -I may enjoy it more in a different format.

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Bonnie Fairchild escapes her home in the country only to find herself lost and alone in London. Rescued by the charismatic Crawford, Bonnie is soon under his spell and what a spell Crawford casts on all those around him. Cruel and manipulative, Crawford has his eye firmly fixed on the main chance and so when the need arises for Bonnie to make a swift escape from London Crawford arranges that she is taken on as a lady's maid to Cissie Moncrieff at Endellion House, a gothic mansion on the outskirts of London. With the master of the house wrapped in grief for his dead wife and a craving to build a mausoleum in her honour, Bonnie is soon welcomed into this dark and dreary house however, Crawford and his scheming ways are never far away...

The Victorian obsession with death is firmly entrenched in this story and what I found fascinating was the integration into the plot of the rise of organised cemeteries. We go from throwing bodies in lime pits, to the organisation of the grand cemetery, with detailed burial plots, and hidden catacombs in a fascinating Victorian Gothic thriller which captivates from the first page. Decidedly dark, and often gritty, the author has captured the Victorian gloom with ethereal characters who write love letters to themselves and the sadness of others who brood on death whilst at the same time giving us Bonnie, a feisty and determined young woman who will do whatever it takes to survive.

The Burial Plot is a compelling novel about the dangerous nature of obsession, the manipulation of greed and the overwhelming need for dangerous retribution.

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A thrilling plot driven novel, centred around the building of a new cemetery in 19th Century London, featuring a gothic mansion full of secrets and mysteries, seemingly having a life of it’s own.
It’s about murder, manipulation and a young woman called Bonnie trying to find the secrets lurking in the mansion.
The perfect gothic thriller - full of atmosphere, suspense and tension
The author really immerses you in Victorian London, her writing style is so vivid, bringing the city to life in the Victorian era and their morbid fascination with death.
Would thoroughly recommend for any historical fiction fan
Thanks @elizabethmacneal @picadorbooks & @netgalley for the atmospheric read

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I found "The Burial Plot" to be an exceptional novel. The setting was captivating, and the historical ambiance was palpable. True to the Gothic genre, the eerie atmosphere was masterfully crafted. The characters were well-developed and fascinating, and their growth throughout the story was impressive. The writing was superb, and the narrative was highly engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed devouring this novel and will definitely be seeking out both her previous and future works.

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I wasn’t going to read this at first as I’ve read too many similar sounding books in the last couple of years and gone off historical fiction with a mysterious house and secrets etc. But then I couldn’t decide what to read one day and wanted something straightforward and easy to get into, so this felt like the perfect read. It’s true that it did feel like I’d read similar books before, but Elizabeth Macneal is one of the best at the genre and I did enjoy the book. Perfect escapism and well written.

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A jarring and absorbing gothic thriller that keeps you enthralled to the very end. Bonnie runs away from a dull future with an older rector, only to fall into the arms of the manipulative Crawford who delights in using people and has a plan to claim back the inheritance he believes is his.

Set in the 1830s it deals with so many different aspects of people's lives and layers of society it offers up a frightening reality that all the characters must face.

It's a gripping read that goes by very quickly and shares it reveals well within a busy plot. Lovely pacing throughout, and a couple of adorable female characters in Bonnie and her stepdaughter Cissie.

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"Anyone, given the right circumstances, the right amount of fear, might empty the world of another person."

It's 1839 and in London, Bonnie and her lover Crawford are spending their nights tricking and mugging its wealthier citizens. But when one such robbery goes wrong, Bonnie has to flee.

Crawford has seen an advertisement for a lady's maid at a mansion outside the city, the perfect place to hide. But as soon as Bonnie arrives, she realises the house is full of secrets. Everywhere the house is draped in black in mourning for the owner, Mr Moncrieff's wife Josephine, who drowned herself two years prior. Their teenage daughter, Cissie, who found her mother's body, is deeply disturbed by it and spends her time writing love letters to herself from an imaginary suitor.

Moncrieff, an architect, spends his days drawing plans for mausoleums and fancy burial plots he wishes he could have built for his wife. His finances are ruined though and he cannot afford it. Bonnie convinces him to use some of his land to build a fancy and beautiful cemetery, where the wealthy can be laid to rest in peace.

But then, Crawford arrives, pretending to be Bonnie's brother. And he's about to play the grandest trick of all.

'The Burial Plot' is a gothic historical mystery/thriller about manipulative people and the madness of their greed. The house is oppressively claustrophobic with a pervasive sense of unease, the perfect setting for this tense story to play out.

I enjoyed Bonnie as the main character, though I found myself in two minds as to whether to root for her or not. Her actions are dubious and duplicitous, yet she tries to make amends. Elizabeth Macneal writes a good villain full of depth: Crawford is everything you would want him to be – handsome, charming, and a snake. Bonnie never really knows where she stands with him.

A great read if you're looking if you like historical fiction that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

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