‘Church is worship of the Almighty, don’t you see? Is Mr. Locke almighty?’
Author Christie Stratos earned her degree in English Literature and has published poetry and short stories in important anthologies. ANATOMY OF A DARKENED HEART was her debut novel – the first installment in a promised series – The Dark Victoriana Collection – and now Book 2 BROTHERHOOD OF SECRETS, continues to seduce.
As befits her signature style – intrigue blended well with psychological overtones – Christie opens this Part 2 of her Dark Victoriana Collection with a symbol and a note –‘Welcome to Locke and Key, brothers in the art of keeping secrets. We are ready to keep yours. Enter.’ Christie follows this dark greeting with a cleverly scribed ‘letter’ dated February 8, 1849: Dearest Prospective Locke and Keye Employee: I greatly look forward to having you in my employ on a trial basis. Until I choose my permanent employees, you will rotate your work schedule as I require. I know you will be agreeable. It is typical in most locksmith shops to wear a costume of loose shirt and apron, and for the men at the shop’s counter, a waistcoat. However, I ask that you attend in a full suit no matter the job you perform. You may only remove your jacket and waistcoat while working out of sight to make locks and keys and use equipment, in which case you will wear an apron provided to you by Locke and Keye. The apron is to stay in the shop. Please enter and leave the shop fully dressed; lock makers must remove their apron and appear in front of customers with at least a waistcoat. I expect to see you no later than seven o’clock in the morning starting Monday. Sincerely, Mr. Locke’
It is apparent that the author has studied Victorian manners, customs, and inherent mood of darkness in the elegant manner in which she composes her story. For those who have not the advantage of having read Book 1 in this series, this story may indeed stand alone, but it is greatly enhanced with the background set in Book 1. And yes, the Whitestone family is part of the cast – especially Abigail – as the Brotherhood influences the tension.
Again Christie succinctly offers the concept of the story: "Brothers in the art of keeping secrets." This is the mantra Mr. Locke's carefully chosen five employees must repeat together every day before starting work. If you won't tell them your name for Locke and Keye's ledger, they'll find out. They have their ways—and many of them. Yes, these talented locksmiths can make a new lock and key set for you. They can even make a special padlock for a diary you never want to share with anyone. But just remember: when they make the lock, they keep a key—and it's only a matter of time until they use it. Day by day, each of these young, single, alone-in-the-world workers is being molded into the family they crave. A family in which each member has his use toward an end he doesn't even know exists. How do the brotherhood and the town's secrets interlock? Only Mr. Locke holds the key.’
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