London in 1930 is a strange place. Puzzles, death, suspicions, and one man is sure that he has the key. Rachel Savernake is always there – powerful, wealthy but at heart an enigma. Martin Edwards pulls out all the stops to create not only characters that fill the complex and many layered novel, but to create a world in which seemingly anything can happen, expectations can be overturned, and no one is safe. Edwards has used his unique knowledge of the period and the Golden Age Mystery novel to produce a powerful story which does not hinge on one murder, however complex. This novel describes a series of deaths which are perhaps suicide, perhaps extraordinary accidents, perhaps unconnected, but all seem to hang together, as the wisps of a story come together into a strong conclusion. I was delighted to receive a copy of this brilliant book to read and review.
Jacob Flint is a determined young man. He has moved from Yorkshire to make his name as a journalist in a London where self made men were common. For reasons that are perhaps unclear, he becomes convinced that a mysterious young woman, Rachel Savernake, knows something about not only the notorious crime that she has been rumoured to have solved, but also has special knowledge of various unexplained deaths among rich and powerful men. After all, she is extraordinarily well informed about seemingly unconnected things, she is in the area when many of the deaths occur, she has few but absolutely devoted servants, and she has a great deal of money. Jacob begins to make links by determined efforts to be at the right place at the right, or wrong, time. He does begin to wonder, however, as he experiences first hand not only near misses, but the actual death of those around him. While he could walk away, be sensible, be safe, he becomes enthralled by the desperate hunt for the truth. Rachel meanwhile seems not only an observer of these desperate deaths, but also have some strange involvement. Also, throughout the novel there are inserts of a journal of a young woman, concerned with her life on an island where Rachel and her cruel father are frequently mentioned. Who is Rachel, and how does she feature in this account of collective destruction?
This is a colourful book, where no death, no murder, takes place in an isolated or colourless manner. This is a London of seedy boarding houses, new art, gaudy theatre and new ways of death. Not that this is a gloomy novel; there is great strength of purpose and some flashes of humour as Jacob, Rachel and others act, observe and discover various truths. This is a mature, effortlessly confident novel in which Edwards uses all his skills and experience of writing contemporary murder mysteries to create mysteries within a mystery which absorbs and compels the reader to become involved. I was really bewildered at times by this book at times, but in a really good way, as just as I thought that I could see what would happen, it would suddenly plunge off in another direction. This is far from the common woman detective solving murder mysteries in the 1930s novel which is surprisingly common at the moment; this is a novel of unexpected heroes and villains. I can whole heartedly recommend this unusual and unique book to anyone with an interest in the Golden Age of detective writing, the social life of London in the 1930s, and how the motives of a few affect the lives of many in unique ways.
We have gone north over the last few days to view our son’s new house and to allow the Vicar to go on a five church crawl around York today. All has gone well, as much effort has gone into the new (actually quite old) house and its period features. http://www.northernvicar.co.uk has got much material for blog posts in the near future, and daughter and I found many wonderful books in Waterstones and the Oxfam bookshop in York. I even found a folio set of Jane Austen in the latter, which is very beautiful…..