‘The Black Book of Secrets’ reviewed by Eoin Sweetman

The February Book of the Month, ‘The Black Book of Secrets’ by F.E. Higgins was recommended by Eoin Sweetman. He recently wrote a review of the book. Here’s his review, which should encourage everyone who hasn’t started yet, to get a copy of this gripping and hard-to-put-down read: 

Eoin’s Cover Design


‘The Black Book of Secrets’ is set in the late 19th century. The main character, Ludlow Fitch, grew up with his cruel alcoholic parents but runs away when they try to sell his teeth for money to buy drink. Ludlow stows away on the back of Jeremiah Ratchet’s horse and cart and arrives in the mountain village of Pagus Paruns. Here he meets Joe Zabbidou who offers him a job and a home. Joe is a pawnbroker but rarely makes any money. He owns a poisonous frog with yellow spots.

After a period of time, Joe invites people individually to his house and tells them to confide their deepest darkest secret which Ludlow writes into a black notebook. In return, Joe gives quite a substantial payment and swears never to tell a soul. Soon the whole town who were in debt to Jeremiah Ratchet begin to pay him back. This does bot suit him as he was always owed favours as well as money from the locals. 

Jeremiah turns sour on Joe and tells tales about how he has told their secrets. Joe is innocent and has done a lot for the village but the community is fickle and tries to drive Joe out of the village. On the night Joe is about to leave, Jeremiah tries to steal the Black Book of Secrets. While stealing it, he decides to take Joe’s beloved frog just in spite. However, the frog bites Jeremiah and he dies.

Joe and Ludlow run away for days and nights. Eventually they reach a secret place where Joe keeps all the black book of secrets he has written. He asks Ludlow to be his apprentice and eventually takes over from him.


Joe is a reserved man, and throughout his and Ludlow’s time together, he prefers to let Ludlow figure things out for himself if he can. Joe is a generous man but Ludlow finds he has many secrets to hide himself. Joe’s secrets unravel as the novel goes on. 


Ludlow is the main character. He has some of his parents’ bad stealing habits but Joe recognises the good loyal boy under a skin of petty crimes. For Ludlow, the trust he places in Joe is questioned many times but Joe always comes out on the good side. 


I would recommend this book to everyone with an interest in reading. At first glance the book may seem dark and you may not think it is your type of book, but stick with it. It has opened up a different type of book for me.

Thanks very much Eoin for that review. Well done, and no doubt you have encouraged many readers to pick up this fascinating book.

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