In Two Minds by Alis Hawkins – A Tefi Valley Coroner novel as a fascinating historical read.

 

Wales in the 1800s is a challenging place for Harry Probert – Lloyd, as unwilling heir to his elderly father and battling with diminishing sight. Having returned home from London where he worked as a lawyer, he is once again intent on finding out more about a death which defies easy explanation as acting coroner of Tefi Valley. In this, the second Teifi Valley Coroner novel, the odds seem even more stacked against Harry, as he insists on investigating the death of a mysterious man despite resistance from his father and the other magistrates who would prefer a quiet life. With only his assistant, John Davis for support, he is forced to enlist the help of a doctor with an interesting reputation and learn much about a scheme for would be emigrants. This second novel is an excellent stand alone read as well as a welcome return to Wales. I was honoured to be asked to read and review this book on its publication day.

The book opens with the exasperated Harry asking the reader “Is there any argument more futile than one with an aged parent?”. He is aware that he succeeded beyond expectations in his investigations into the death of Margaret Jones recently, but that does not help him to convince his father that his work as a coroner should continue. His father is only interested in the fact that Harry will in time inherit his estate of Glanteifi, and take on the traditional role and responsibilities of a major landowner. Harry is frustrated by his poor sight, as he can no longer have his independence and legal career in London, and is even dependent on the friendly housekeeper to read letters from Lydia, a spirited friend who is employed elsewhere. John Davis, who is beginning to understand some of the pressures on Harry, is nevertheless unhappy that neither his own employer or Harry appreciate the extent of his own ambition. He is aware of how to help Harry, guarding him from physical danger increased by his lack of sight and using his own judgement to further the investigation into a body which has been found on a beach. More mysteries emerge as the body’s face has been disfigured, and identifying a faceless man proves difficult. As the narration moves between John and Harry, we see how they are aware of the expectations placed on both of them, and just how difficult their tasks will be in a situation where no one is keen to show their hand.

This is a mature book which shows every confidence in being able to establish characters who have their own understanding of their situations, and how the physical setting of travelling by horse amid a challenging rural landscape affects the investigative process. Secrets, lies, pride and other barriers make this far from a straightforward  murder mystery, and I once again learnt much about the legal system of the time. This is a totally absorbing book, as the narrative moves from crime to complicated family situations. I recommend it as a great read of real depth, and a another splendid tale of a man battling on all sorts of fronts to follow what he believes is the correct path. A really good read!    

 

At the moment I have been struggling with putting some brilliant answers to questions I put to Alis about this novel on this post! My chromebook is not cooperating! In the interests of putting this post up today, I will fight on after posting it! Thank you to Alis, and I promise to get the Q and As soon! 


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