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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Detectives of the Golden Age

I try to post a review of a new book everyday, I don't always succeed as life has a habit of getting in the way of this contribution to crime fiction.  Additionally, as many of you know I also produce a monthly newsletter for Mystery People members. This is circulated in e-zine format.  It contains news of Mystery People events, interviews, reports on mystery conferences, reviews of new books, and a competition. In the interest of producing a rounded publication I have also introduced a 'Forgotten Authors' page and a 'Golden Age of Detection' page. The latter has proved to be very popular generating many complimentary comments. So I have decided to make these articles available for anyone to read on this blog.  I will issue one a week until I catch up with all of the articles already contributed by members to earlier Mystery People issues, after which I will post an article monthly.  The first is by author Carol Westron and features Margery Allingham.
Lizzie Hayes

Margery Allingham (1904-1966)
by Carol Westron

Margery Allingham was born in Ealing, London, in 1904.  Her father and mother were cousins and both were writers, coming from a family with a long tradition of writing.  At the time of Allingham's birth, her father was editor of The Christian Globe and The New London Journal; her mother contributed short stories to women's magazines.  Her aunt also edited magazines.  Allingham earned her first writing fee when she was eight-years-old, for a story published in one of her aunt's magazines. When Allingham was a baby, her father gave up journalism to write pulp fiction, (exciting tales printed on cheap paper and sold at a remarkably low price.)  The family moved to a village on the edge of the Essex marshes. 
Allingham was educated first in Colchester and then at the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge.  She wrote throughout her childhood.  In 1920 she returned to London and studied drama and speech training at the Regent Street Polytechnic.  In this way she overcame the stammer that had troubled her throughout her childhood.  It was here she wrote a verse play, which was performed at St George's Hall and the Cripplegate Theatre.  Allingham played the leading role.  The scenery for the production was designed by Philip Youngman Carter, Allingham's future husband.

In 1923 Allingham wrote her first novel,
Blackkerchief Dick.  It was regarded as a very good first novel, although the subject matter was considered unusual for a young woman of nineteen.  It was about 17th Century pirates and Allingham claimed the idea had originated from seances in which long-dead pirates had communicated with her.  (Later, Philip Youngman Carter insisted that the story had not come from the supernatural but from Allingham's lively imagination.)

Throughout the 1920s Allingham worked hard writing stories for many magazines. Between 1923 and 1927 she attempted other books with more serious themes but these did not accord well with her natural wit and light-heartedness.

In 1927 Allingham wrote her first crime novel, The White Cottage Mystery, as a serial for the Daily Express.  It was published as a book in 1928 and it became clear that Allingham had discovered the genre that suited her
talents. Also in 1927 Allingham and Carter married.

In 1929 in The Crime at Black Dudley, Albert Campion makes his first appearance. Allingham had intended Campion to be a minor villain.  She said, she had meant him to be 'a mere muddying of the waters,' but she (and her editor) discovered he was a character they wished to develop. In The Crime at Black Dudley, Allingham introduces him in this way: 'His name is Albert Campion… he's quite inoffensive, just a silly ass.'  Allingham describes George Abbershaw, the intended hero of The Crime at Black Dudley, staring at 'the fresh-faced young man with the tow-coloured hair and the foolish, pale-blue eyes behind tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles.'  It seems possible, even in those early chapters, that Allingham had a subconscious suspicion that Abbershaw, as a hero, was about to be replaced.

Albert Campion is an alias and his real name and background is never revealed, although it is made clear that he comes from a noble family and moves in the highest society as comfortably as he associates with villains and policemen. 

In the following thirty-five years, Allingham wrote another nineteen novels and a large number of short stories featuring Albert Campion, as well as other novels and novellas, and many short stories and articles.  In the 1930s the Campion novels were not lucrative enough to allow Allingham to abandon her 'bread and butter' writing for magazines. It is amusing to note that when Allingham wrote a series of Campion stories for Strand Magazine, Campion's scurrilous manservant, Lugg, was replaced by an anonymous and far more seemly manservant.   

Allingham used the house she and her husband kept in London for writing her magazine contributions but preferred the country when she was writing her novels.  She regarded herself as a countrywoman and in 1934 she and Carter bought D'Arcy House in Tolleston D'Arcy, Essex, which became their home for the rest of their lives. Philip Youngman Carter was deeply involved in his wife's writing.  He designed the dustcovers for many of Allingham's books, as he did for many other eminent writers of the time, including Dorothy L. Sayers.  Moresignificantly, when Allingham died of breast cancer in 1966, at the age of sixty-two, Carter completed the
Campion book she was working on, Cargo of Eagles, and then wrote two more Campion books before his own death a few years later.

The Albert Campion novels are extraordinarily diverse, the early ones: Mystery Mile (1930), Look to the Lady (1931) and Sweet Danger (1933) are all fast moving adventure stories, peopled by extraordinary characters and fantastic incidents.  Basically they are treasure hunts, with Campion and his companions trying to discover or
retrieve some valuable article that has been stolen or lost.  Later in her life, Allingham was critical of their lack of construction, but they are eminently readable. In Mystery Mile, Campion first becomes the central character. 
Despite his protective shield of vacuous amiability, his intelligence cannot be concealed and he is an eccentrically quixotic, knight-errant figure.  In Mystery Mile we are introduced to two of Campion's companions in adventure: the dependable, hard-working police detective, Stanislaus Oates, and Campion's manservant, the ex-burglar,Magersfontein Lugg.  Lugg must surely be Allingham's most extraordinary creation. Described as 'a hillock of a man with a big pallid face,' his basic Cockney speech is ornamented by extraordinary flourishes and his manner to his employer is totally lacking in respect.  The dialogue between Lugg and Campion is lively, funny and full of Lugg's complaints about their present circumstances and gloomy predictions about future disasters.  Theseexchanges show the depth of affection that lies between Lugg and Campion.  The most extraordinary thing about Lugg is that he alone does not significantly age, as Campion and his other companions do.

The fourth Campion novel,  Sweet Danger, is especially interesting.  It is a well-constructed novel, funny and fast-paced, with two distinct lines of action that merge neatly into one.  It is also the book that introduces AmandaFitton, the girl who, some years later, becomes Campion's wife.  'Amanda Fitton, eighteen next month, was at a stage of physical perfection seldom achieved at any age.  She was not very tall, slender almost to skinniness, with big honey-brown eyes, and an extraordinary mop of hair so red that it was remarkable in itself.  This was notauburn hair, nor yet carroty, but a blazing, flaming, and yet subtle colour that is as rare as it is beautiful.' Amanda is the younger daughter of an aristocratic but, at that time, impoverished family. Despite her beauty she has no interest in entering Society; she is a mechanic who later becomes an engineer.  In their first adventure together she appoints herself as Campion's lieutenant and, in later books, she is a stabilising influence, a yardstick of good sense, and an equal partner.

It is much later, in More Work for the Undertaker (1948) that Allingham introduces Charlie Luke, a young policeman with a 'pile-driver personality' and the habit of expressing himself not just with his voice but with his mobile, vivid expression and his extravagant hand gestures.  The spymaster L.C. (Elsie) Corkran first appears in Traitor's Purse (1941) but is more used by Philip Youngman Carter in Mr Campion's Farthing (1969) and Mr Campion's Falcon (1970) which he wrote after Allingham's death.

The range of the Campion novels varies widely from adventure stories to comedies of manners that include a
central crime story, such as The Fashion In Shrouds (1938.)

Traitor's Purse (1941) is a turning point for Albert Campion.  Britain is at War and he alone holds the key to save his country from invasion, but he has suffered a head injury and cannot remember anything.  Traitor's Purse is a terrifyingly intense novel in which only Lugg remains a pillar of good sense and solid comfort.  Campion emerges from it older and much less frivolous, and Amanda agrees to be his wife.

Allingham was intensely patriotic and Traitor's Purse was an attempt to convince her American readers to lobby to enter the War.  It was published in the same year as The Oaken Heart (1941), a thinly disguised description of life in D'Arcy House during the War. Essex was in danger from invasion across the North Sea and, while her husband was away on military service, Allingham was deeply involved in the war effort at home working on with Air Raid precautions, First Aid Stations and the housing of evacuees.  Her home was used as a military base and she was prepared to act as the local agent of a British Resistance Movement.  It is not surprising that Traitor's Purse has such a dark and fearful tone; it was written when the outcome of the War was very much in doubt andinvasion was considered imminent.

Tiger In the Smoke (1952) is often cited as Allingham's greatest novel.  In it she portrays the harm done by the War to young men who after it  knew no other way of life than violence.  This is a treasure hunt of a very different nature to the light-hearted earlier Campion adventures, as the Tiger, Jack Havoc, a vicious killer on the run in the foggy streets of London, is determined to gain the treasure that obsesses him.  The story is also that of the clash of good and evil, as Havoc encounters Canon Avril, Campion's uncle, a gentle religious man.  Allingham was not afraid to sideline her hero when necessary and Campion has a minor role in Tiger In the Smoke.

Allingham never makes Campion's background clear.  In fact at one point she mischievously suggests that he is not just well-born but actually royal.  It appears that his family disapproved of his adventurer's lifestyle and disinherited him; however we are introduced to his uncle, Canon Avril (Tiger In the Smoke 1952) and his sister Valentine, who has also been disinherited (The Fashion In Shrouds 1938).  We also discover that his grandmother encouraged his wayward inclinations and that his real first name is Rudolph. 
In the later novels, Campion is quieter and much more sensible.  In fact he has grown up.  He is married to Amanda and they have a son, Rupert.  Campion now works as a consultant for the police and secret service.  In Cargo of Eagles Campion is described as, 'tall and fair, but he was over-thin and the careful veil of affable vacuity which had begun, like his large spectacles, as a protection, and had become a second skin, had robbed him of good looks.'  

The thing that sets Allingham apart from other Golden Age writers is the subtle playfulness and sense of fun in many of her books.  Albert Campion personifies this, although both he and his adventures can be serious, even desperate.  Allingham is at her most mischievous when dealing with Campion's appearance, his affectation of foolishness and his family background.  The teasing resemblance to Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey cannot be missed; nor can the parallel between the perfect gentleman's gentleman, Bunter, and the far from gentlemanly Lugg.  At no point does Allingham show any sign of having fallen in love with her main character (a charge that has often been levelled at Sayers) but one does get the impression that she finds him very good company.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, published July 2013.

Monday, 29 July 2013

‘Accidents Happen’ by Louise Millar

Published by Pan, 
11 April 2013. 
ISBN: 978-0-330-54501-3

How does the saying go? Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.
Kate Parker is a bundle of nerves, and as the story unfolds we learn that she has a lot to be nervous about. Her parents died on her wedding day in a horrendous freak accident. Her husband was murdered in a random opportunist robbery. Her house has been burgled twice in a few months. She is the person to whom one in a million accidents always seem to happen. And to cap it all, her in-laws think her permanent state of anxiety is damaging her young son, and she’s afraid they may be right.

Kate deals with the anxiety by playing a numbers game. She researches the odds against specific accidents and disasters and tries to choose the least perilous course of action. So she doesn’t cycle on the road; she refuses to fly; she insists on collecting her son from school although his friends all walk unaccompanied; she constantly upgrades the security around her house. Then she meets Jago, who has an unorthodox way help her kick the numbers habit and regain her confidence.

A problem I sometimes have with suspense novels is that the sense of menace I feel entitled to expect is so low-key that I’m unaware of it till the denouement. That is decidedly not the case in Accidents Happen. It’s clear from the outset that the danger is real and Kate’s fears are justified; someone is out to get her, and it’s not just her controlling in-laws. But the narrative is pitch-perfect; slivers of action serve to misdirect as much as inform the reader, and when the whole truth is finally revealed, it comes as a delicious shock; I certainly didn’t see it coming.

A writer acquaintance of mine has a theory that in the best fiction the characters don’t know they’re in a story, but simply get on with living. That’s what happens here; as well as reacting to events, people connect with each other, growing closer and drawing back; relationships develop and change, and everyone has a layered existence which feeds into the main narrative line. When Kate’s ‘haunting’ is over and her recovery is well under way, there’s a sense that they will all go right on with their lives.
Millar draws those lives with a sure hand against a rich background of tension, and creates a taut, edgy page-turner of a novel with plenty of surprises and a killer of a resolution. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the ending is tied up a little too neatly and the villain’s comeuppance is a little too drastic. But that takes nothing away from the skill with which she plays the reader en route for that ending.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Louise Millar was brought up in Scotland. She began her journalism career in mainly music and film magazines, working as a sub-editor for Kerrang!, Smash Hits, the NME and Empire. She later moved into features, working as a commissioning editor on women's magazines. She has written for Marie Claire, Red, Psychologies, Stella (Telegraph magazine), the Independent, the Observer, Glamour, Stylist and Eve.

She lives in London with her husband and daughters.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning.
She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

‘Raylan’ by Elmore Leonard

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
7 February 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-7802-2230-1

This book is based on the Emmy award-winning TV series Justified, Raylan by Elmore Leonard. Raylan Givens is a US Federal Marshal whose job is arresting fugitive felons. Givens is essentially an old-fashioned hero from Wild West stories who enforces the law, is never first to draw his gun, but when he does shoot shoots to kill.

The story is set in Kentucky hillbilly country and is (or appears to be) a compilation of three episodes of the TV series all featuring female lawbreakers. In the first story Layla, a nurse with experience of transplant operations, and her lover Cuba Franks kidnap people and remove their kidneys for sale to hospitals. In the second, Carol Conlan, ruthless executive of a strip coal mining company, coldbloodedly shoots the elderly retired miner Otis Culpepper who has resisted the pollution caused by the mining companys activities and then orders one of her subordinates to take the blame and plead self-defence. In the third, Givens is searching for a young woman gambler, Jackie Nevada, whom Givens believes is also one of three girls carrying out bank robberies organised by a criminal called Delroy Lewis.

These stories are told as one with links provided not only by Givens but also by other characters who make appearances in one or another of the stories: the crafty elderly Pervis Crowe, a large-scale marijuana farmer, whose bone-headed sons are involved with Laylas and Cubas schemes, makes an appearance in the second story when he refuses to sell his land to Carol Conlans mining company. Jackie Nevada while on the road is taken up by Harry Burgoyne for whom Cuba Franks had worked at one time. And Carols shooting by Marion Culpepper, widow of the murdered Otis, occurs in the second and third stories.

There is so much in Leonards writing to admire such as his terse and laconic prose style and his use of dialogue to illuminate character: his famous 10 Rules of Writing should be required reading for crime writers. But in my view this adaptation of episodes of the TV series is not particularly successful at least for readers who do not know the series. It gives the impression of incoherence. It might have been less confusing if the stories had been told as three separate narratives with interlocking strands. Readers who already know Leonards work will like Raylan but it would be better for readers who have not previously read any of Leonards novels to begin with titles such as Get Shorty and Maximum Bob.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Elmore Leonard was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, October 11, 1925. His father worked as an executive for General Motors Corporation, and from 1927 to 1934, Leonard, his parents and older sister, Margaret, moved several times to Dallas, Oklahoma City and Memphis before finally settling in Detroit in 1934.

In the fifth grade, in 1935, Leonard showed the first sign of wanting to write fiction. He wrote a play inspired by the book, All Quiet on the Western Front, recently serialized in a Detroit newspaper; though it was the 1930 film version he recalls more vividly. He staged the play in the classroom, using desks as the barbed wire of no man’s land. In 1943, at the age of 17, Leonard graduated from The University of Detroit High School, and tried to join the Marines, but was rejected because of poor vision. He was subsequently drafted and assigned to the Seabees, the fighting construction battalion of the United States Navy. He served for a little more than a year and a half in the Admiralty Islands and the Philippines before returning home in January of 1946. Leonard enrolled in the University of Detroit and majored in English and Philosophy. In 1947, Elmore Leonard’s father left General Motors and bought an auto dealership in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Upon graduation, Leonard planned to work for him, but his father died of a heart attack six months after the move to New Mexico, ending any thoughts he might have had of selling automobiles.
He married Beverly Cline in 1949 and went to work for the Campbell Ewald advertising agency. He soon became an ad writer but wrote Western stories on the side, selling mostly to pulp magazines, and to men’s magazines like Argosy, and one story to the Saturday Evening Post. In 1961, Leonard quit his job at the ad agency to write full time. It would be a long, but clearly marked, road to success. Leonard began selling his work to Hollywood on a regular basis. Leonard’s books were now getting glowing reviews. He grew in stature and turned out well-received novels such as Freaky Deaky, Killshot, Maximum Bob and his “Hollywood” book, Get Shorty, which in 1995 was made into a hit movie by Barry Sonnenfeld and catapulted him to even greater fame. In 2005, at the age of 80, he wrote his fortieth novel, The Hot Kid, featuring his iconic marshal, Carl Webster, receiving some of the best reviews of his long career. That same year, he received the prestigious Cartier’s Diamond Dagger Award in England and The Raymond Chandler Award at the Noir in Festival in Courmayeur, Italy. More awards followed:  The F. Scott Fitzgerald award in 2008; the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. In 2008, Elmore’s son, Peter Leonard, published his first novel, Quiver, and father and son began doing bookstore appearances and book festivals together.  It has been a satisfying experience for Elmore to share the stage with his son.  He’s happy that writing has turned into a family business.
In late 2010, Djibouti was published; a fun romp through the world of Somali pirates and home grown Al Qaeda terrorists, seen through the eyes of a documentary filmmaker. 
Today, inspired by Justified, based on his novella, Fire in the Hole (2000), Elmore wrote his 45th novel, Raylan.  Parts of this novel have been incorporated into the second and third season of Justified.  “I can pick up Raylan’s story anywhere,” Elmore said.  It’s like visiting with an old friend.”
Elmore Leonard lives in Bloomfield Village, Michigan.  He has five children, twelve grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Friday, 26 July 2013

‘Tideline’ by Penny Hancock

Published by Simon & Schuster, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-85720-628-2

The unreliable narrator is a useful device in suspense fiction, and the main narrator of this taut, atmospheric novel is more unreliable than most.
It’s a story about troubled women. Sonia is in her early forties, and has a turbulent past and a present which doesn’t help matters. Helen finds it hard to take responsibility, and blocks out reality with alcohol. The lion’s share of the narration falls to Sonia, and Helen fills out the details Sonia can’t be aware of.

The story revolves around Sonia’s kidnapping and imprisonment of a beautiful teenage boy, Jem, who reminds her powerfully of a boy from her own teenage years whose identity remains unrevealed until almost the end. She doesn’t see it as kidnapping, of course; even when her family arrives home and she has to hide him in the garage in hypothermic temperatures, she only wants what she sees as the best for him, and is prepared to go to any lengths to give it to him.

Hancock sets the disquieting narrative against a richly evocative background of the Thames embankment – the river and Sonia’s house on the edge of are almost characters in their own right – and winds up the tension level by degrees until it, and Sonia, finally snaps. It carries potent echoes of the John Fowles classic The Collector, though Sonia is a more sympathetic character than Fowles’s chilling butterfly fanatic. Her damaging relationships with her glacial mother, bullying husband and distant daughter may strike chords with some readers, and certainly provide a credible context for her troubled mind.

Helen is at the centre of the police search for Jem, and has her own troubles to contend with. She is only one of a varied cast of characters to whom Hancock applies a deft hand. Tideline isn’t a comfortable read, but then the best suspense novels never are. It may mess with your head; Jem is the only innocent party, but I found myself feeling reluctant sympathy for both Sonia and Helen and none at all for their abrasive families.

It’s Penny Hancock’s debut. If she continues in this vein, she may well become a contender for Sophie Hannah’s crown.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Penny Hancock. Afterr several years in London, Penny Hancock now lives in Cambridge with her husband and three children. She is a part-time primary school teacher at a speech and language school and has travelled extensively as a language teacher. Tideline is her first novel.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning.
She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

‘Lost’ By S.J. Bolton

Published by Minotaur Books,
June 2013
ISBN:  978-1-250-02856-

The current obsession of Barney Roberts, a bright young boy with OCD, is something with which many in London are currently preoccupied:  Five boys his age had disappeared in the last five weeks in South London, where Barney himself lives, their bodies turning up soon afterwards with their throats cut.  And as the book opens, the bodies are being found more and more quickly, the killer seemingly escalating.  Barney’s den is covered with posters, maps and photographs about each boy, his kidnapping, and his death.

The police investigation is headed up by D.I. Dana Tulloch, of Lewisham’s Major Investigation Team.  Sure of only one thing, that the killings will continue, they have no clues.  And someone, perhaps the killer, is taunting them online.  On the periphery of the investigation is D.C. Lacey Flint, still recovering from the horrific event of her last case, in the aftermath of which she is still seeing a psychiatrist twice a week, fighting her own demons, unsure of whether or not still wants to remain a policewoman.

Barney is the youngest of a small group of kids (five boys and one girl) who are brave, and foolhardy, enough to do some investigating of their own.  He also happens to live next door to Lacey Flint.  One day he works up the nerve to ask her to help him find his mother, who apparently left several years ago, when he was four years old, and he is determined to track her down, going so far as to use all his meager wages working for a newsagent to run anonymous classified ads in very methodically and geographically plotted newspapers in London and beyond.

The novel is but the newest of several suspenseful books from this author, and characters, plotting and tension seen in her prior work are fully present here.  The reader is never more than guessing at the possible identity of the killer, as are the detectives whose work is detailed here, knowing that if they do not succeed another boy will die.  Obsession is a constant theme.  This is another winner from S.J. Bolton, and is recommended.--
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

S J (Sharon) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer. Her books have been shortlisted for several international awards, including the CWA Gold Dagger, the Theakston’s Old Peculier prize for crime novel of the year, the International Thriller Writers’ Best First Novel award and (four years running) the Mary Higgins Clark award for best thriller (Awakening actually won that one). Her latest book, Dead Scared, was published in April 2012.
Sharon lives with her family of four, one of whom is a food-stealing, rabbit-chasing lurcher, in the Chiltern Hills, not far from Oxford.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

Monday, 22 July 2013

‘The Frozen Shroud’ by Martin Edwards

Published by Alison & Busby,
June 2013.
ISBN 978-0-7490-1455-1

What a pleasure it is to receive a copy of the sixth ‘Lake district Mystery.’ What mystery will celebrity historian Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett, have to unravel?

Over one hundred years ago on Halloween night, a young housemaid from Ravenbank Hall went missing. Gertrude Smith was found brutally murdered, her face destroyed and covered in a woollen cloth. The lady of the house committed suicide and this was accepted as a clear sign of guilt. The ghost of Gertrude, the “faceless woman” haunts the lane at Ravenbank, a very small and remote community on Ullswater.

Five years before this novel begins, Sheenagh Moss, a beautiful, if pushy Australian, was living at the Hall with Clifford Palladino a rich, much older man. She took the dog for a walk late on Halloween and failed to come home. Sheenagh was found, her face beaten to a pulp and covered by a shroud. There was a clear suspect but he died in an accident before he could be arrested.

Daniel Kind, is interested in the old cases, and wonders whether the obvious suspects actually did commit the crimes and begins to research the murder of the housemaid. Daniel's research unsettles the people of Ravenbank as everyone has something to hide, although not necessarily about the murders. Daniel and his sister attend a Halloween party at Ravenbank Hall. But in the early hours the partygoers have to search for another beautiful woman who is eventually found, her face obliterated and shrouded from view. Once again there is an obvious suspect, but is he guilty?

The ongoing story of Hannah and Daniel puts the ‘icing on the cake.’ The ‘cake’ is a beautifully constructed novel with characters that are rounded and believable, all mixed together with a clever plot and a satisfying end. The ‘jam’ that holds it all together is the atmosphere of the lakes in autumn which Edwards writes so well.

Here is murder past and present with themes of jealousy and obsessive love. As well as the ‘will they, wont they?’ aspect of the relationship between Daniel and Hannah. I highly recommend this book. If you haven’t read the series, start now.
Reviewer: Sue Lord
The earlier books in the series are: The Coffin Trail, The Cipher Garden, The Arsenic Labyrinth, The Serpent Pool, The Hanging Wood

Martin Edwards is an award-winning crime writer whose fifth Lake District Mystery is The Hanging Woodl. The series includes The Coffin Trail (short-listed for the Theakston’s prize for best British crime novel of 2006), The Arsenic Labyrinth (short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year award in 2008) and The Serpent Pool. He has written eight novels about Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin, and two stand-alone novels, including Dancing for the Hangman. He won the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2008, has edited 20 anthologies and published eight non-fiction books.                                                                                                   

Sue Lord originally studied Fine Art and Art History, her MA is in Creative Writing. She now, revues, teaches, mentors and script doctors. She lives in central London and Cornwall. Her favourite pastime is gardening.