Helen Scarlett’s chilling debut, The Deception of Harriet Fleet, is published today in hardback by Quercus.

This suspense-filled Victorian tale, set against the dark and untameable backdrop of rural County Durham, follows governess Harriet as she attempts to manage Eleanor, her unstable new charge, whose behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. As time passes, Harriet is pushed deeper into the mystery of her host family’s disturbing past, and the tragic murder of a small child that so obsesses Eleanor.

Readers couldn’t wait to get hold of the title, after Quercus released its stunning teaser trailer last September to lead up to the publication of the ebook to coincide with Halloween:

Since then, people have been full of praise for Scarlett’s thrilling debut. Kirsty Walk called it ‘an utterly thrilling gothic tale’. Hope Adams agreed, and appreciated the ‘modern twist’. Elizabeth Buchan loved the ‘terrific characters’, who Elly Griffiths described as ‘two unforgettable heroines’. Bella Ellis described it as ‘rich in atmosphere and suspense’ and Sonia Velton called it ‘a deliciously unsettling tale… with a dark, Gothic heart’.

1871. An age of discovery and progress. But for the Wainwright family, residents of the gloomy Teesbank Hall in County Durham the secrets of the past continue to overshadow their lives.

Harriet would not have taken the job of governess in such a remote place unless she wanted to hide from something or someone. Her charge is Eleanor, the daughter of the house, a fiercely bright eighteen-year-old, tortured by demons and feared by relations and staff alike. But it soon becomes apparent that Harriet is not there to teach Eleanor, but rather to monitor her erratic and dangerous behaviour – to spy on her.

Worn down by Eleanor’s unpredictable hostility, Harriet soon finds herself embroiled in Eleanor’s obsession – the Wainwright’s dark, tragic history. As family secrets are unearthed, Harriet’s own begin to haunt her and she becomes convinced that ghosts from the past are determined to reveal her shameful story.

For Harriet, like Eleanor, is plagued by deception and untruths.

As well as being the day this engrossing debut is released in hardback, it is also the start of a blog tour. Details of this are below, so do look out for the reviews as they come in.


Helen has a BA (hons) degree from London University and, after a brief flirtation with the world of finance, has taught secondary English for over twenty years, most recently in a sixth form college. In that time, society has become much more open in talking about mental health issues and this formed the starting point for her novel. She lives and works in the North East of England, a region which holds endless fascination for her and whose influence can be felt throughout her writing.

It couldn’t be a more perfect time to indulge in this gothic delight – we recommend you prepare yourself in advance to be wonderfully spooked!