The only disappointing thing about this great book is that I cannot do its fantastic cover justice on the blog, so you’ll have to go and buy it to get the great metallic copper tree and root design for yourselves.
I realised after only about twenty pages into this one that I have been missing out, probably missing out on lots, of great historical crime, as it’s a genre that I confess to rarely reading into.
It would be fair to say that most of what I read is rather heavily tough cop and handgun-based crime and, whilst there are a few guns within this novel, the emphasis and pace are quite different to my usual read.
Set in 1740’s Preston, England, this is the first novel in a series from acclaimed writer on works of artists Van Dyck and Stubbs, Robin Blake and introduces us to his characters of Coroner Titus Cragg and Doctor Luke Fidelis. Throughout the book he also introduces us, through his characters, to early methods of crime investigation when they take on the case of the apparent murder or possible suicide of Dolores Brockletower.
It’s the early techniques as the characters feel their way through the best methods to look to track down the killer, the rumour that it might be suicide, or the possibility that the death might be the work of the devil himself, that really add all of the book’s entertainment and sometimes its humour too. The characters appear to be stumbling along at points, finding their way through the investigation along with the reader – it seems a good idea to keep the body in an ice-house, it seems to keep it fresher, but they’re not really sure why. They have to push a horseshoe harder into the earth to leave the same impression that a heavy horse would have made, and so on. This is the certainly the earliest CSI I have ever read and am doubtful it would ever appear on screen with a theme tune by The Who, but it is nevertheless a very entertaining, dark and compelling tale set in a time of which I have embarrassingly no knowledge until now, and a time that I look forward to returning to so as to follow the characters’ next mystery.
Keith B Walters