This historical mystery is the first in a trilogy by author Mary Malloy, who has published four previous books on maritime history. In The Wandering Heart, maritime history expert and professor Lizzie Manning is invited by the aristocratic Hatton family to document the collection and journal of Francis Hatton, who sailed with Captain Cook in the late 18th century. Eager to add to her credentials, Lizzie travels to England and settles in at Hengemont, the Hatton family’s ancestral home in Somerset.
As Lizzie sorts through Francis Hatton’s artifacts, she begins to uncover other family documents unrelated to her research. Initially she sets them aside, but as more documents surface, it becomes clear that the Hatton family is cursed by a series of tragedies that date back to the 13th century. Several generations of Hatton women – all named Elizabeth – mysteriously committed suicide, their deaths connected to a single incident that occurred during the Crusades.
Lizzie soon finds herself swept up in this mystery, to the point where she nearly succumbs to the curse herself, and travels to London to resolve it and end the Hatton’s curse once and for all. In the process of breaking the cycle of family tragedies, Lizzie also rights a grievous wrong that she discovers in Francis Hatton’s documents, which he never got to do himself.
This complex novel is skillfully crafted, the various storylines woven together seamlessly. Malloy clearly took care with the historical research. The details are vivid: the costumes and chivalry of the medieval period, the architectural features of Hengemont, the nuances of the Hatton art collection, and the local landscape.
The Wandering Heart is a fascinating and enthralling read, although overwhelming at times because of all the intricacies of the different storylines. Despite this, the elements of the novel hold up well and are tied up nicely at the end. It’ll be interesting to see what’s in store for Lizzie in Malloy’s next installment.