A young woman’s quest to heal a family rift entangles her in one of Australia’s greatest historical puzzles when an intricately illustrated map offers a clue to the fate of a long-lost girl. A mesmerising historical mystery set in the Hunter Valley from bestselling author Tea Cooper.
1880. The Hunter Valley. Evie Ludgrove loves to map the landscape around her home – hardly surprising since she grew up in the shadow of her father’s obsession with the great Australian explorer Dr Ludwig Leichhardt. So when an advertisement appears in The Bulletin magazine offering a one thousand pound reward for proof of where Leichhardt met his fate, Evie is determined to figure it out – after all, there are clues in her father’s papers and in the archives of The Royal Geographical Society. But when Evie sets out to prove her theory she vanishes without a trace, leaving behind a mystery that taints everyone’s lives for 30 years.
1911. When Letitia Rawlings arrives at the family estate in her Model T Ford, her purpose is to inform her great aunt Olivia of a bereavement. But Letitia is also escaping her own problems – her brother’s sudden death, her mother’s scheming and her own dissatisfaction with the life planned out for her. So when Letitia discovers a beautifully illustrated map that might hold a clue to the fate of her missing aunt, Evie Ludgrove, her curiosity is aroused and she sets out to discover the truth of Evie’s disappearance.
But all is not as it seems at Yellow Rock estate and as events unfold, Letitia begins to realise that solving the mystery of her family’s past could offer as much peril as redemption.
Tea Cooper has quickly become one of my favourite authors. The release of each new novel is something I really look forward to. Her last novel, The Girl in the Painting, was an atmospheric and richly detailed Australian historical mystery, and one of my standout reads of the year.
Weaving together historical facts with fabulous fiction, Tea delivers a richly imagined world. Her research is impeccable and the era vividly drawn. Once again, the Hunter Valley setting comes to life. Her author notes at the back of the book are also fascinating: “When I discovered that most of those early cartographers were women, working in their family business and obliged to sign their maps with their husband’s name, I was more than a little outraged!”
Tea excels at writing complex, strong female characters. Evie and Lettie, and their dual timelines and tales, are completely mesmerising. I devoured this novel over the weekend and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The Cartographer’s Secret is an excellent Australian historical.