The House of Closed Doors by Jane Steen is historical fiction at its best. The plot keeps you guessing and biting your finger nails. The period setting adds to the intrigue. We hear the story in the voice of a young 17 year old girl who finds herself compromised and facing ruin.
Eleanor or Nell is a young girl living in a small town near Chicago in the 1800s. Her stepfather is a coarse character who is quite sanctimonious when he learns of Nell’s impending confinement. Her refusal to enter into marriage or reveal the name of the wrongdoer makes things worse. Nell is dispatched to Poor Farm, a place for unwed mothers and charity cases where she must live in hard conditions until her child is born.
Nell gradually adjusts to the strict discipline and meager environs of the Poor Farm. One day a young girl’s body is found in a closed wing of the building. Nell takes it on herself to find out what really happened to the girl, and unwittingly unravels an ugly plot. Whether she manages to get away from all the evil and save her own unborn child will keep you turning pages. Apart from Nell herself, the author builds some striking characters – the ‘simple’ childlike woman from the poor farm, Nell’s nanny, her loyal ‘man friend’ and of course her cruel step father.
I downloaded The House of Closed Doors as part of a promotion and it exceeded my expectations. It can get a bit scary at times. You get a well plotted mystery, and a good story with a historical backdrop. You cannot go wrong with this one.