[ENG] 'The Golden Key', by Marian Womack


Marian Womack

Titan Books
320 pages

Based on a Victorian England just starting the twentieth century, The Golden Key tell us the story of Helena Walton-Cisneros. She is not only a medium but also a detective who will try to solve the mystery behind the disappearance, 20 years in the past, of the three stepdaughters from Lady Matthews. During such investigation Helena will come up with the name of Samuel Moncrieff who initially does not feel to have nothing to do with the mystery. However, his involvement will be clearer as soon as the case progresses.

Helena will move from London to the Norfolk fens in the northeast of England where the disappearance took place. As mentioned, the novel is based in the Victorian times in England, where the interest on spiritualism and supernatural facts is growing. In this period, being a woman investigating a case does not help, as most of her success will be blamed to supernatural evidences and her contact with other realities.

The Golden Key is the first novel published in English by Marian Woman. Actually, it is not her first novel as such as she previously published some stories and a novel in Spanish while she was living in Spain, where she was born. From this perspective it is worth saying that she did a great job for Spanish readers as she lead a publishing house called Nevsky which brought some of the most interesting Russian authors to Spanish, e.g. Anna Starobinets, who also has some works translated to English. Not just Russian, but she also published some well-known English authors like Nina Allan or Lisa Tuttle. Back to the The Golden Key, this book does not come on its own. It is also confirm that a second novel, The Swimmers, is on the way for 2021.

I’ve been looking to read this novel since it was announce few months ago as it promised a great atmosphere based on a period of time I haven’t read that much. However, I have to say that not all the aspects of the novel convinced me as much as others.

The best thing by far about The Golden Key is the setting and atmosphere. It captures in an excellent way how London and England was and how the supernatural facts were so important in the day by day of the citizens a century ago. Helena Walton-Cisneros is a great and powerful character who challenges this setting with her knowledge and her abilities. Being the first half of the novel more focused on the uncanny and the mystic while the second more the solving of the mystery, in both cases Helena is the individual who makes possible that everything matches at the very end.

However, the structure of the novel did not convince me. There are lots of threads open at the same time and not all of them closed in a successful way. I had the feeling when reading The Golden Key that some pages were not relevant for the plot, even when reading to the very end of the novel. It was like if the novel started in a way that does not matter at the end, losing the sense of it while the novel progressed.

It is also worth mentioning that the novel is a straight tribute to George MacDonald, writer and poet from the nineteenth century who was a significant influence on many British writers. He also wrote a novel called same as this one, The Golden Key. The tribute does not end on that, as there is a character in the novel named in the same way.

Definitely, The Golden Key is a novel with ups and downs. There are some great things on it but also some other that made me struggling with the reading. Fortunately, there was a character like Helena who focused most of my attention and caught me until the very last page. A fast reading novel which could deserve a second reading to get all the details on the successful setting. I’ll keep Marian on my radar for the promised 2021 novel announced.