Letters to the Pianist

Letters to the Pianist: A gripping and emotional suspense saga

A Family Torn Apart. A Past They Can’t Escape

In war-torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the terrifying bombing of their family home. They believe their parents are dead, their bodies buried underneath the burnt remains – but unbeknownst to them, their father, Joe, survives and is taken to hospital with amnesia.

Four years on, Ruth, stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist and is struck by the resemblance to her father. Desperate for evidence she sends him a letter, and as the pianist’s dormant memories emerge, his past unravels, revealing his true identity – as her beloved father, Joe.

Ruth sets out to meet him, only to find herself plunged into an aristocratic world of sinister dark secrets. Can she help him escape and find a way to stay alive?


Letters to the Pianist is a compelling page turner packed with drama, intrigue and suspense. If you loved The Book Thief, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, or The Pianist, then you’ll love S.D. Mayes’ exciting new novel.

Read what everyone is saying about Letters to the Pianist:

Letters to the Pianist has a gripping and multi-layered plotline, with authentic characterisation, which had me fall in love with protagonist Joe by the conclusion. Fascinatingly informative on the strength of Fascist sympathisers in wartime London society. This book is a five-star read.’

Claire Campbell, Daily Mail

‘I found the plot to be exceptional and unique … a book with mass reader appeal which took me on an emotional journey that I will never forget. There is a dark undertone with a plot twist that really shocked and intrigued me at the same time. I did wonder how much of the story was truth or fiction and it gave it an edge that you won’t see coming. An exceptional novel that will remain with me for a very long time. I give this book 5 huge stars! S.D. Mayes is an author to discover and watch if you haven’t already. A rising star!’

Maxine Groves, Top ranked Goodreads and Amazon reviewer

‘Five solid stars! Letters to the Pianist is a gripping historical suspense novel that throws you into the turmoil of WWII London immediately. Family values, imperfection of humanity and the desire to overcome obstacles are wrapped in another world of wealth and privilege. I simply couldn’t put this book down. Simply superb writing and story with some terrific plot twists to keep me on edge. I cannot recommend this book enough. S.D. Mayes has done her homework and it shows. Fantastic, epic and haunting.’

Bibiana Krall, Author

‘Letters to the Pianist is a gripping story and I liked the way it looked at different aspects of people’s war experience. The poor working people of the East End, the rich people who could eat and drink anything – not just the landed gentry but Ruth’s uncle who cheated his way to a pantry full of food, exploiting others. And of course, the way some people treated the Jews. It was interesting all the way through and exciting at the end. A great story!’ 

Ignite Bookblog

‘In the spirit of The Book Thief, Letters to the Pianist is one of the best novels I’ve ever read and has the makings of a mini-series. The story reads more like a true account than historical suspense/fiction. The characters, and there are many, are carefully and brilliantly crafted to feel real and consistent. Mayes has written a masterpiece that you’ll want to take your time and read, savour the words slowly, and let the pages turn themselves.’ 

John Darryl Winston, award-winning author of the IA trilogy

‘An intriguing suspenseful story, well written and giving readers a unique perspective of WWII British life.  With an original plot and full of colourful characters, Letters to the Pianist is a book that, once begun, readers will not want to put down.’ 

Willow, Canadian Book Reviewer

‘Letters to the Pianist was full of secrets and complicated affairs laid on a canvas of geo-political and social issues during WWII. I can just see this in movie theatres.’

Frances, San Diego

‘Letters to the Pianist is an excellent, exciting, emotional read. There are so many twists and turns that S. D. Mayes manages to hold suspense throughout the whole book, and I got a sense of urgency that made me keep turning the pages. Ruth, the protagonist is a real feisty trooper – the kind of heroine we all love. This is an excellent well-written novel that should absolutely be on the best-sellers list!’ 

Kathryn, Phoenix, Arizona

Wow! I absolutely LOVED this beautiful, beautiful book! I am still recovering from it! So beautifully written, so authentic, so harrowing, so sensitive and stunning and addictive and brilliant. I absolutely could not put it down – had to wrench myself away from it every morning and looked forward to it every evening. I loved this author’s debut but this book is a masterpiece. Elegant writing, a unique and poignant story – I am absolutely in awe. One of my favourite books of the year from an author to watch! Very highly recommended. 

Renita D’Silva, Author

S.D. Mayes took a three year journey of meticulous research to bring us her labor of love with Letters to the Pianist. As you read, you can tell she put her heart and soul into this novel. Letters to the Pianist pulls you in from the beginning by placing you in London during WWII. We go on this journey with Ruth, her siblings, and also the mysterious pianist. I really felt the hardships all these characters go through. There is much more to this novel than the mystery of whether this pianist is actually Ruth and her sibling’s father or not. He questions his whole past and then his present life takes us in an unexpected direction that spirals towards the fast paced conclusion. All the characters are extremely well developed and you will like some and some you will not. You feel all the emotions these characters do. S.D. Mayes did a superb job! These are flawed characters as you deal with family issues, and most of all love. If you are a fan of Historical Fiction, especially World War II then you MUST read this novel! Letters to the Pianist is recommended. 

Jessica Page Johnson, Blogger at Jessica’s Reading Room

Let me just say WOW, WOW, WOW! When I first heard about Letters to the Pianist a year ago, I was immediately intrigued. The problem with having so much lead time is the fear of disappointment with all of the hype you build up in your head. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here. Letters to the Pianist far exceeded my expectations! S.D. Mayes obviously did a lot of research on this project as her descriptions of a war torn London set in the 1940’s paint an accurate picture that the reader has no choice but to jump in head first. Her story is rich with not only the current styles and language, but especially with the fear and heartbreak brought on by the Nazi attacks. While Letters to the Pianist is a historical fiction and WWII is an important part of the book, the real story is about a family torn apart and how unexpected events pull them back together, both as a family and within themselves. There is a bit of everything in this story: war, love, suspense, even a touch of thriller. The thing that I love most about this novel is that Mayes has written it from the perspective of several of the main character and allows you to really get to know each of them. She created each of her characters dynamically with depth, personality, and flaws. Ruth: the responsible eldest daughter with self-esteem issues. Joe/Eddie: the loving, seemingly perfect father and husband, stricken with amnesia and trying to make a new life for himself. Connie: the superficial rich new young wife. Adores her husband, Eddie, but knows nothing of true love. And of course there are the supporting characters, family, friends, and lovers that come into play with just a touch depth for you to get to know them well enough to have an attachment without bogging the story down with too many details. Letters to the Pianist is a true work of art and one of the best books that I’ve read in quite some time. Mayes has created a masterpiece that will not only touch your heart but will get your adrenaline pumping!

Julayn Adams, author of Almana. Letters to the Pianist is the Elite Award Winner on her blog https://julaynadams.wordpress.com

This was a fantastic book! I love historical fiction, especially during WWII, so this book enticed me at first by the description. But it was the suspenseful aspect, along with the unique setting, that made the story really stand out to me as a five-star book. Letters to the Pianist starts off during 1941 in London and spans about five years, so we get a glimpse of life in London during and slightly after the war. Most of the WWII books I’ve read take place in either Germany or France, so this was a nice departure. There are basically two main characters in the book, but the secondary characters are very important and come to life through the pages. About half-way through, the book gets more suspenseful. Honestly, I didn’t expect it, but it was a very pleasant surprise as it really became a page-turner. The story is well-written, the plot/subplots are very good, and descriptions and dialogue are great. There are a lot of moving parts in the book, but they all come together nicely. I look forward to reading S.D. Mayes’ next novel.

Linda Smolkin, author of Among the Branded

I won this book as a Goodreads first read. I loved this book, it was so interesting and intriguing and far surpassed what I expected. There were so many elements which I personally find fascinating, war history, Savant syndrome, medical research and music are a few. This is a well written book which is hard to put down. It is easy to empathize with the protagonists and see things from their point of view, and wonder in suspense what might happen next. The psychologically aspects of the different characters and their interactions were intriguing, and at times horrifying. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction, suspense, psychological thrillers and anyone who just wants an interesting story to read.

Zach O’Brien

War is hell. Sometimes that hell can be a little closer to home. The story follows Ruth, her siblings and Edward through the war years and beyond as that one bombing raid changed all their lives forever. Some will find their new lives hold unexpected – even deadly – dangers and all will come to know love and friendship as well as loss and betrayal. Mayes writes this novel with confidence, moving smoothly between the story lines as they unfold and intertwine. The author makes the reader really feel the emotions the characters are going through, good or bad. Edward’s story is particularly effective as his previous life slowly starts to come to light and the man he was isn’t the person either those around him or Edward himself is comfortable with. As with her previous book, Stop The World, although very different in subject matter this story is just as deeply affecting and once again I’m sure it will stay with me for some time.

Phil Leader, blogger

I love historical fiction, especially when it is based on true facts and this book did not disappoint. The research that has gone into this work shines through, making the time and setting come to life. The characters are all believable and varied and I could vividly image being in the time and place. The plot is excellent and convincing, emotional and exciting. The tension mounts at the end until you have to hold your breath and keep reading to find out what happens. A lovely piece of writing.


One of my favorite reads of the year! I simply couldn’t put this book down! Letters to the Pianist is a well-written historical novel set during and after WWII. S.D. Mayes has created a complex and well developed plot which kept me turning page after page. I finished the book in less than 24 hours as I simply had to know what would happen and I wasn’t disappointed. I look forward to reading many more novels by S.D. Mayes.

Donna Schechner

If you read one book this year, let it be Letters to the Pianist. A Goodreads’ friend recommended this book to me, and I read the many positive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads. I’m happy to say they are all true. I couldn’t find one thing wrong with this book. That’s not to say it was perfect, just perfect for me. I wished I would have read it with a book club. The characters are addicted as is the storyline. It was hard to put down. One review suggested Michael Fassbender playing the role Edward in a movie version. Who doesn’t love Michael Fassbender? I had that image with me throughout the story, adding to the effect. Just an all-around great story with great characters that I would recommend to anybody.

Taryn Rydell

I don’t write a lot of reviews, but I felt compelled to this time. I put this ahead of all the books on my reading list based on a review by one of my Goodreads friends. I was not disappointed. I expected it to last me through the weekend, but I couldn’t put it down. I don’t write reviews because I don’t know what to write. This was one was easy. I loved everything about it so much I had to rethink my definition of the word “good” as this book goes way beyond that distinction.


This is an absorbing book, with a very engaging and interesting angle on WWII. Set in London, this brought a different perspective to this historical period. It was thoroughly absorbing and Ruth’s voice had an authenticity and a realism that brought the horrors of this period to life. The interaction of Ruth’s brother and sister (Gabi and Hannah) was excellent and the warmth of their characters really shines through. The author’s prose made it easy to understand how different people responded to the challenges of WWII – from warmth through to unpleasantness. It was so easy to put yourself in their shoes – and especially towards the end, I shed a few tears.
The other key protagonist is Edward. As the threads start to come together, it’s interesting to see how someone would respond to the situation of not knowing who they are – or their background. To acquire a talent and become a virtuoso is one challenge, but then to discover you’re not who your wife thinks you are (and deal with it) was an interesting dilemma. The author brings this to life and creates a satisfying narrative that has you hoping for a positive outcome. Well worth a read – a different perspective on WWII that is clearly well-researched, realistic and engaging.