Crooked Heartis the first adult novel from Lissa Evans since the Orange Prize-shortlistedTheir Finest Hour and a Half(2009). This novel tells the story of ten-year-old evacuee Noel Bostock, who leaves blitz-ravaged London to stay in St Albans. His new family consists of the scatter-brained and near penniless Vera Sedge, her ungrateful teenage son Donald and her apparently housebound mother.
Noel has had an unusual upbringing; with no family of his own, he has lived most of his life with his recently-deceased godmother, Mattie, a former suffragette who has provided an eclectic education and passed on to Noel her suspicion of and disdain for authority. Vera feels scorn for authority for different reasons; all around her she sees people making money from the war effort, and Vera is determined to get her share, but her haphazard schemes have rarely borne fruit. However, once Noel realises what Vera is trying to do, he becomes the brains behind her scam operations and together they become a team. When they meet a bewildered old woman who reminds Noel of his beloved godmother, things take a nasty turn as Noel tries desperately to help her, thinking that in saving Mrs Gifford’s belongings from a thieving air raid warden he can somehow save his beloved Aunt Mattie, for whom he still grieves.
The novel is beautifully written and very well researched. Evans brings to life the world of scammers and thieves who thrived during the War while also making the voice of the precocious Noel utterly believable.