Cover Image: Chalice of Darkness

Chalice of Darkness

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Member Reviews

Sarah Raye starts the Theatre of Thieves series with Chalice of Darkness. The story includes a chalice with a long dark history, a one night stand with a royal prince, an innocent woman whose child is taken from her and who is imprisoned by her malicious husband, and a theatre company which has thieves as actors. What could go wrong?

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Wow! WOW! I read everything by Sarah Rayne and once again she did NOT disappoint!! What begins as a "filching" exercise becomes a quest for the truth.

The story begins with Jack, a member of a theater of thieves devises a plan to steal the alluded Talisman Chalice. Jack, who has grown up in the theater with his family, travels to last county side where it seems that the chalice has been seen.

It is while Jack is there that he finds much more than he bargained for. Not only more insight of the missing chalice but also his family, specifically the death of his beloved father.

For sure this is a page turner!

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“Fortune’s gone a-begging, and the luck’s gone out the door
And the fences are a-cheering and the King ain’t safe no more
For rum-dubbers picked the locks when no one was around
And they’ll all be at the Tuck-up Fair/If the Talisman don’t return.” - from ‘The Lament of the Luck-filled Vessel’.

My thanks to Severn House for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Chalice of Darkness’ by Sarah Rayne.

I am a long time admirer of Sarah Rayne’s fiction and so welcomed this new historical mystery that is the first in her Theatre of Thieves Mysteries.

London, 1908. The Fitzglens are proud of their reputation as one of London’s leading theatre families. However, they have another profession, which they pursue very discreetly. They are skilled thieves, stealing only from the rich and are always on the lookout for opportunities.

Jack Fitzglen is very interested in the infamous Talisman Chalice, a medieval bowl taken from a monastery by Richard II. His plan is to locate and steal it and then to create a dazzling piece of theatre based on its legend covertly featuring the actual chalice.

Yet the chalice has a dark history as it is said to bring bad luck to anyone who has it in their possession apart from its rightful owners and indeed over the centuries many who had it came to a sticky end, including Richard II.

The chalice disappeared from the British royal family’s collection in 1891. Jack then finds a clue in his father’s effects in the form of a letter and photographs of a young woman named Maud Vallow and of the chalice. Her letter dated December 1891 warns the recipient to never come to Vallow Hall!

So hot on the trail, Jack travels in disguise to Northumberland and plans to contact Maude, confirm the chalice is there, and then ‘filch’ it. Yet his quest quickly enters darker territory as there are scandals, secrets, and dangers lurking everywhere. Aside from the going-ons in the novel’s present there are flashbacks to earlier events.

This was a superb multilayered mystery set in the dazzling world of the Edwardian theatre. There’s also the picturesque landscapes of Northumberland. My favourite supporting character was Todworthy Inkling, an eccentric Covent Garden bookseller with a discreet side business in jewellery and silverware. He is a great friend of the Fitzglen’s and a font of knowledge on the medieval period.

Despite its modest length ‘Chalice of Darkness’ is packed with plot and historical detail. In her Author’s Note Rayne provides details of The Munster Luck, a medieval bowl rich in legend. It provided the inspiration for her Tailsman Chalice that has launched her tales of the Fitzglen family.

Overall, I enjoyed this very much. It has plenty of excitement, a few twists, and even royal connections. I look forward to what’s next for Sarah Rayne’s Fitzglen family and the Theatre of Thieves.

4.5 stars rounded up to 5.

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I haven’t read anything from Sarah Rayne prior to reading this book. I honestly don’t think I’ll be reading another one. I couldn’t get interested in the book. I was really bored and couldn’t concentrate on what I was reading. This book wasn’t for me but I will recommend it to a friend that I know that might like it

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The first in a new series, Chalice Of Darkness introduces us to the Fitzglen family who are thieves and grifters, but their public facing business is a very well respected theatre.

Jack Fitzglen is the figurehead and master of the heist and his latest scam takes him to Northumberland to Vallow Hall to track down the Talisman Challice, which has links going back to 1300 and the Royal Family. We meet an eccentric cast of characters, many of them are larger than life but this is a great fun read and Maude is just brilliant!

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I have been a fan of Sarah Rayne’s Nell West and Michael Flint Supernatural series, so was excited to see this new series by Ms. Rayne

The story follows a theatrical family, the Fitzglens who enjoy a modest success as actors and a better sucess as cat burglars. Jack Fitzglen the current head of the family decides to stage a play and a theft of the long missing Talisman Chalice, a famous medieval chalice that disappeared from the Royal family’s coffers in 1891, After finding a photograph and letter in his late father’s effects of the chalice pictured with a young woman named Maude Vallow, Jack proposes to pose as a gentleman looking to buy property in the area of Vallow Hall and look for the missing chalice and if he finds it to steal it. The problem is that the chalice has a dubious history. The previous owners have come to some sticky ends. The chalice was removed from a monastery by Richard II and he did not have a great end. The chalice then ends up in the hands of a young Edward V and Richard Duke of York, aka the Princes in the Tower, and then a certain young lady named Anne Boleyn. None of these famous Royals had a happy ending. Jack travels to Vallow Hall to see what became of Maude Vallow and the chalice. How did the chalice end up in the hands of the young wife of the owner of Vallow Hall and not the Royal family? Will Jack solve the mystery and acquire the missing chalice or will he come to a similar sticky end as the prior owners of the chalice?

I enjoyed the mystery of the chalice, especially the historical aspects of the chalice and how it made it’s way through Royal history and then disappeared. There was a slight supernatural tint to the story that I enjoyed and I look forward to the next book in the series. The Fitzglens were a fun, witty family and I look forward to more
adventures from them.

Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher Severn House and the author for the chance to read and review this book

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In early 20th-century England, the theatrical Fitzglen family are Robin-Hood-style high-society burglars, robbing the rich to… well… pay themselves. Young thespian, Mr. Jack, suggests that their new play incorporate a mysterious chalice, which they will graciously return to the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family at the end. Missing since 1891, the Talisman Chalice is dogged by sinister superstition. Its whereabouts are a mystery, but Mr. Jack is sure he’s found it! Several old photographs showing a young woman with the chalice were amongst his father’s belongings, with a letter warning Jack’s father to stay away from Vallow Hall. Mr. Jack sets off for Vallow posthaste.

The story moves to Maude, the young woman in the photograph, and is protracted and absorbing enough that I forgot Jack was supposed to be filching the chalice. The chalice’s history is told through journal entries documenting Richard II’s theft of it from a monastery, its discovery by the York princes, their subsequent disappearance in the Tower, and Anne Boleyn’s beheading.

The book feels like a mishmash of gothic horror, a play, two murders, a mystery, a royal affair, and a dynasty-documenting journal, but no derring-do theft. I liked the idea of a slightly kooky theatrical family writing and performing their own plays, and thieving on the side to make ends meet, although the family’s involvement is mostly peripheral in this book. Maude is a tragic figure who is frail and naïve, and to describe the behavior of her husband, Saul Vallow, as anything other than melodramatic overkill would not be doing his evil antics justice. The sinister gothic houses are wonderfully creepy, and what we see of the family, appropriately eccentric. Some things stretch credulity: drag marks on the carpet made by a never-previously-moved chest, used as a hiding place (how could someone miss those?). Book One of the Master of Thieves series bodes well for a sequel.

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Another thrilling novel by this talented author: I had fun, read it in two sitting and couldn't put it down.
Excellent characters, setting and solid mystery.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine

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Like a modern day Wilkie Collins or Bronte sister, Sarah Rayne, summons up mystery and intrigue in a deliciously dark gothic setting. This is a magnificent start to a new series set in Edwardian England.
One couldn't hope to find a more loveable bunch of rogues than the Fitzglen family, owners of a dry rot-ridden London theatre. The gothic thrills come thick and fast in two ghastly houses on the wild border of England and Scotland.
On stage and off I am already in love with the leading man, Jack Fitzglen, and eagerly await the next book in the series. An absolute must read for mystery fans.

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Once I got over the seemingly daft sounding names (echoes of Dickens) the story in and of itself was very engaging. We are drawn into the theatrical world in this novel and the pursuit of the Talisman Chalice which brings with it some 'darkness' of its own.

Sarah Rayne is a proven author and this is another welcome addition to any bookshelf.

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I was first introduced to Sarah Rayne through one of her non-series books, The Death Chamber (which remains one of the scariest books I’ve ever read). I’m glad to see her next book deviating from her series regulars Phinneas Fox and Nell West in her newest offering.

The storytelling her is as intriguing and well-plotted as usual, and is accompanied by a surprisingly tender treatment of a woman horribly wronged. Maude endures unthinkable punishment from her husband, driven by his own inadequacy and his fear and loathing of her. Quite a reminder that the times when women were considered their husband’s property isn’t all that long ago.

In addition to Maude, the Fitzglen family is fascinating. The blend of thespian and thief was fun to read, and the ending was so satisfying.

This will appeal to fans of Simone St. James and of course to Raynes’ fans.

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While Sarah Rayne’s series mysteries are some of my favorites, this historical stand-alone mystery is her best yet. Combining British history and theater, she alternates between time periods, with different sets of characters, to bring about a satistying finish.

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I loved this historical mystery set mostly over 15 years between 1891 to early 1900’s with historical details on some of the people who owned the Talisman Chalice. Full of twists and turns and evil people. I loved the creepiness of the old Bastle House and Vallow Hall on the Scottish border.
Jack Fitzglen is searching for the Talisman Chalice that once belonged to the Royal family but went missing in 1891. Jack wants to write a play about the Chalice but first needs to prove that it does exist.
Jack finds old photographs of a woman holding the Chalice and a letter telling his father Aiden to stay away from Vallow Hall. The letter is signed by Maude.
Jack sets out to find Maude and the Chalice and how they are connected to his father. Lots of historical information about the Talisman Chalice and its connection to the Royal Family and the way Jack tried to solve the mystery of the missing Chalice. This was about secrets and murder. My favourite type of book full of clues and creepy old houses.

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An intriguing new historical mystery! Jack Fitzglen has a plan - a thief who is also a thespian- he's determined to steal a chalice and create a play. Sound simple? Not so much. He's in Northumberland, a fish out of water and he's discovered secrets that date back, well, centuries. Rayne has packed a lot into this slim volume and I found myself doing a bit of googling to follow up on a few of the historical figures. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. For Rayne's fans.

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An unsettling Edwardian Gothic mystery that spreads its malevolent and sinister wings from London to Northumberland and introduces the Fitzglens, a highly likeable family of talented thespians also known for being skillful thieves. But little do they know at the beginning of this captivating novel that stealing an ancient chalice talisman could upend their lives and bring them dangerously close to a frightening point of no return...

A gripping tale of madness and murder full of evil twists and turns, gorgeously plotted and blessed with a terrific cast of exquisitely drawn characters, Chalice of darkness kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

A highly recommended literary treat that deserves to be enjoyed without any moderation whatsoever!

Many thanks to Severn House and Netgalley for this fabulous ARC

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The Fitzglens are a leading theatre family in 1908 London, owners of the Amaranth theater. They are also all charming criminals, thieves who only steal from the rich. Jack Fitzglen has a plan for the family's latest filch. Fifteen years earlier, the Talisman Chalice disappeared. Jack has two photographs and a letter to his late father who died in a fire at the Amaranth. The photos show a woman named Maude with the chalice just before it disappeared, with a warning to Jack's father, Aiden, not to come near Vallow Hall. Jack has found Vallow Hall in northern England, in Northumberland. He plans to find the chalice, steal it, and use it in the next production at the Amaranth. While Jack sets his plans in motion, Byron Fitzglen, the family writer, and Jack's dresser, Gus, will dig into the superstition that the chalice brings bad luck to those who aren't the rightful owners. With Jack's arrival at Vallow Hall, a dark drama of violence and murder and old tragedies, combining Maude's story and historical legend, comes to a head.

The gothic mystery is an excellent launch of a new series featuring a family of thieves.

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I've devoured the novels of Sarah Rayne ever since I first discovered this author. CHALICE OF DARKNESS is not a stand-alone, but the First of a new series featuring the fin-de-siecle English theatrical family, the Fitzglens of London's Amaranth Theatre, during the final Decade of the 19th century into the early 20th century.

Woven into this narrative are the English royal family, during and just after Victoria's reign [Extra apropos coming so soon after the passing of Queen Elizabeth in 2022], one of Victoria's grandsons, the English theatrical culture, plus a set of really nasty human villains. But CHALICE OF DARKNESS doesn't stop there: history back to Richard II and III, the lost nephews of Richard III, monasteries, Henry VIII and his rages, all come to play, as the author weaves historical accounts into the two current timelines (approximately 1892-1893 and 1907-1908), backdropping human failures and frailty, and exposing a long-standing historical curse. Are the consequences Supernatural in origin, or simply the outcomes of human failings? The reader must decide.

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The first in a new series by popular author Sarah Rayne started at a slow pace but soon picked up speed to a satisfying conclusion. This gripping thriller was well written and thoroughly researched as you expect from Sarah and had a great cast of characters, some more likable than others, I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next.

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288 Pages

4 and 1 / 2 stars

This book is the first in a new series for Ms. Rayne. The premise is a bit different. We have a troupe of actors/actresses in the early 1900’s. They are the famous Fitzglen family. They are also a group of high class thieves.

In this episode they are on a search to obtain the Chalice of Darkness. (Also known as the Talisman Chalice.) The chalice apparently deserves its shadowy reputation. Tragedy follows the chalice.

The best part of the book is Jack Fitzglen and his relatives and friends tracing the history of the chalice. I especially enjoyed reading the chalice being traced through the Yorkist faction and its traveling to the Tudors and then to the mysterious Maude during the Edwardian era.

Ms. Rayne is a very talented author. I truly enjoy her mysteries/borderline supernatural forays. Her characters are colorful and full of life. The reader actually witnesses the thrilling drama as cited in the novel. I actually liked the quirky collection of thieves. I have read her Phineas Fox series and have thoroughly enjoyed them. I have found a new series by Ms. Rayne that I will enjoy as much. Just don’t give up on Phin!

I want to thank NetGalley and Severn House for forwarding to me a copy of this absolutely great book for me to read, enjoy and review. The opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.

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I have been reading Sarah Rayne's supernatural, historical mystery thrillers for years so her latest is always a cause for autumnal tucking in and staying up late. This is both her latest and the debut in her new series starring the family of Fitzglens - Edwardian actors, theatre owners and thieves (Robin Hoodesque). The familiar and skilful hallmarks of Rayne''s voice and style are there - darkness at the heart of a stolen/lost object/darkness in her characters' hearts, Gothic atmosphere and spirit, two or three time periods where the mystery is interlinked- this time with royalty making an appearance, turn of the century theatre life and music sheets - often long missing/forgotten and providing the clues to the solution and of course tragic happenings and twists and turns abound. Here the titular Chalice ' drags a person into, 'A darkness from which he or she can never emerge.'
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers, Severn House, for the e-arc to Rayne's latest, a feast for her fans and a must-read for those yet to discover her, lucky folk.

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