The Thirteenth Tale (2006) by Diane Setterfield is a gothic suspense novel, the author's first published book.
Vida Winter, a famous novelist in England, has evaded journalists' questions about her past, either refusing to answer to spinning tales they discovered to be false. Her life is a secret, and for fifty years reporters and biographers have attempted to discover the truth. With her health quickly fading, Ms. Winter enlists Margaret Lea, a bookish amateur biographer, to hear her story and write her autobiography. With her own family secrets, Lea finds the process of unraveling the past for Winter bringing her to confront her own ghosts.
The novel opens as Lea returns to her apartment above her father's antiquarian bookshop and finds a hand-written letter from Winter. It requests her presence at the author's residence and offers the chance to write her life story before she succumbs to a terminal illness. Lea is surprised, as she does not know of Winter and has not read any of her dozens of novels.
While considering the offer, Lea begins to read her father’s rare copy of Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she