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Sphere pre-empts gothic mystery The Library Thief

Tilda Key, Publishing Director at Sphere Fiction, has pre-empted The Library Thief by debut author Kuchenga Shenje. 

World all language rights were acquired from Silé Edwards, agent at Andrew Nurnberg Associates. Publication is scheduled for April 2024, and it will be a major focus for Little, Brown at London Book Fair this spring.

The Library Thief is described as The Binding meets Fingersmith: a gothic mystery told through the perspective of a white-passing protagonist whose bookbinder father has hidden her Jamaican heritage. Florence escapes a scandal at home by intercepting her father’s commission to restore an old and valuable country house library. One night, Rose Hall’s library is broken into – but strangely, nothing is taken. The only thing out of place is the burned book Florence discovers in the fireplace . . . She realises it’s the diary of her employer’s late wife, who met with a tragic end. And it reveals that in a house full of whispers, Florence’s secrets might not be the most incendiary.

Tilda Key said: ‘Kuchenga has the kind of voice that electrifies you from the first page. She’s daring, original, and a master at bringing colonial Britain to life through the eyes of a character we’ve rarely seen represented at all in commercial fiction, let alone in Victorian-set stories. To add to that, she has conjured a mystery that promises to keep readers spellbound. Sphere and the Little, Brown rights team can’t wait to share The Library Thief with the world.’

Kuchenga Shenje said: ‘From the moment I put pen to paper I could hear Florence’s voice in my head. Who knew writing could be this much fun! The excitement from Tilda and her team about my writing and the story I want to tell has been so encouraging. I’ve found so much joy in subverting the drama of Britain’s not-so-distant past and exploring the mystery and sustenance of female friendship. It’s a dream come true to have my debut novel on the way to reaching its readership.’

Silé Edwards said: ‘Kuchenga’s writing is masterful, the way she draws her characters and creates a real sense of place in her prose is incredible. Seeing Tilda champion The Library Thief from the outset and the sheer ambition for the book meant there was no doubt or hesitation for either of us that her and her entire team at Sphere would be the perfect home to launch what will be a glittering writing career.’

About Little, Brown Book Group

Four-time winner of the Publisher of the Year Award, Little, Brown Book Group is one of the most diverse and successful trade publishers in the UK. Its imprints are Abacus, Atom, Blackfriars, Constable, Corsair, Fleet, Orbit, Piatkus, Robinson, Sphere, The Bridge Street Press, Virago and Little, Brown Audiobooks. It is an Hachette UK company.