book review, historical fiction, history

Review: The Locksmith’s Daughter by Karen Brooks


The Locksmith’s Daughter follows a young woman named Mallory Bright who, after a scandalous incident*, must make a new path for herself by spying for none other than Queen Elizabeth’s Spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham. Not only does Mallory employ her lockpicking skills (learned from her locksmith father,) but also learns new tools of the trade before spying on and helping to expose Catholics threatening the Protestant reign of Elizabeth. Mallory’s web of spying darkens and her world is turned upside down by life-shattering revelations in the process.

Although this novel has a interesting premise, I found the plot points to be very predictable. The reader doesn’t really start getting a clear picture of “scandalous incident*”, i.e. what happened preceding the novel until about half way through the book. That said, I felt The Locksmith’s Daughter could have started earlier than it actually does. The events that have caused Mallory so much pain seems to be very important to her current mental and emotional state, although we only see it in glimpses and even then I felt it was glossed over (as are much of the events in the novel.)

I enjoyed learning about the locksmith trade at the time, and did find it plausible that Mallory, as the daughter of an indulgent father, would have knowledge of such things. What I did not find believable was the sometimes too modern dialogue.

I sadly found the writing style and prose to be kind of tepid, unimaginative, and predictable (the only scene that grabbed me was the execution scene.) What’s more, even though the plot seemed to follow familiar beats, the characters often seemed to act at random and without motivation or build up. Perhaps if we’d gotten that full backstory earlier, some actions would have made more sense? In turn, I also felt the romance aspect was very forced and shoe-horned. Overall, these lacking elements meant I found The Locksmith’s Daughter to be a bit of a slog since I didn’t particularly care about the plot or characters.

Needless to say, I was disappointed by this one. Sorry!

Grade: C-