These Lost & Broken Things, by Helen Fields

Eight stars

Stepping away from her highly popular police procedural series, Helen Fields offers readers a piece set over a century ago, with a woman who will do anything to keep her family together. Sofia grew up in a family of Romani, luring unsuspecting people and taking their money through various sleights of hand. Amongst them was Sofia’s keen abilities at poker, which has her winning large sums from the dark and dirty men who frequent the gaming houses in the late 19th century. Moving head to 1905, Sofia has married and has two children, a definitely improvement in her life. When her husband, Tom, dies before a doctor can be summoned, Sofia has no choice but to seek employment to ensure there is food on the table. While she finds it hard to do so, Sofia is approached by Tom’s employers, one Emmett Vinsant, who has many businesses he owns. While Sofia is leery, she agrees to work in a gaming house, watching other men lose their money with ease. She is unable to keep her poker addiction under wraps and ends up almost losing everything one night. She’s warned by Vinsant to be more careful and given a final chance, serving as an assassin of sorts. Given instructions by Vinsant or his underling, Sofia Logan is now a cold-blooded killer, but can finally ensure her family’s safety. Between assignments, she is forced to remember some of the horrors of her youth, when she first got a taste for murder to protect herself. As Sofia continues her work, she finds herself gravitating to a new man, one who could topple everything if he were to find out Sofia’s true work. An interesting change for Helen Fields, though the writing is still top notch. Those who enjoy historical fiction may want to get their hands on this piece, as well as long-time fans of the authors other work!

I admit that my fascination with Helen Fields’ novels had me wanting to try this piece, at least for something different. I sought to determine just how versatile Fields could be and this novel helped prove that she has what it takes to write outside of the crime thriller box. Sofia Logan proves to be a wonderful protagonist, though quite unassuming as she keeps her nose down in early 20th century England. Suffering alongside many others, Sofia has the love of her family first, though she cannot forget some of the skills she learned as a child to protect her from the wiles of evil men. As the story progresses, the reader can see some of the epiphanies that Sofia has, both about herself and the lifestyle she is living. Others within the piece complement her and keep the plot moving in a forward direction. The story is quite well-paced with a few plot lines to keep the reader intrigued. The intermixing of flashback chapters helps sketch a more complete story about Sofia Logan and lays the groundwork for the impetus of her need to survive. Those readers who enjoy some of the more modern work might like this extrapolation, if only to remind them why Helen Fields is such a great author. I cannot wait to see what’s to come!

Kudos, Madam Fields, for a great move away from your traditional fare. I think you have the knack for historical fiction and yet am also quite happy with your modern Scottish tales.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: