Blind Pool by Vicki Goldie – Melissa and Alasdair in a classic country house mystery with an extra layer

Blind Pool by Vicki Goldie

A country house mystery set in 1923 would be attractive; in this well plotted and written book the author skilfully adds in the Honourable Melissa and the blind war hero Major Alastair Charters.  A delightful read that distracted me from any other reads for the duration, this is a book that looks at a dysfunctional family in the oppressive context of a large house surrounded and cut off by flood water. Melissa and Alasdair have been invited to stay for a few days in a large house on the Somerset Levels by Davinia Gauntlet who has heard of their reputation. In the first novel Melissa and Alasdair had been involved in a mystery, but it is more than possible to read this book on its own as the characters are so well developed. Alasdair’s blindness is thoughtfully incorporated into the plot and texture of the novel, as his apparent limitation is turned into a strength as he needs the layout of rooms, descriptions of those around him and other aspects of what is going on spelt out clearly and thus informing the reader. Personal experience of a blind partner means that Vicki Goldie writes this novel with a warm sensitivity that adds fascinating level to this already well written mystery novel. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this clever novel. 

As the couple arrive on a train they are aware that the weather is not encouraging, and the rather grim driver mutters his concern about the bridge holding in the face of flooding. When they finally arrive Davinia is relieved to see them, as she has some concerns about the recent death of her grandmother. She does reassure Alasdair that his guide dog Sheba is welcome, and they have also brought Thomas as a sort of valet and helper. At dinner that evening they become acquainted with the residents and guests of the house, including Colonel William Gauntlet whose Indian service has led to a lot of the decoration, and his somewhat diffident wife Majorie. Their son Charles is present with his wife Serena, and the even more challenging Major Roderick. When the argumentative aunt Petunia is added in, the already challenging environment of a formal meal becomes the scene of much verbal jousting, even when the jovial American Sheridan tries to lighten the atmosphere. When a murder is discovered the following morning, Melissa and Alasdair are unwitting witnesses and soon realise that a flooded moat and surrounding area has effectively cut them off from help. The only person who gets through is a district nurse, who soon has her hands full. As investigations proceed, the claustrophobia of a house where an odd collection of guests and residents are trapped mean that Alasdair and Melissa must proceed with caution.

This is a clever book which manages to combine many elements of a Golden Age mystery with some well developed characters and some emerging favourites in Melissa, Alasdair, Thomas and even Sheba. This is not a straightforward murder mystery, and it depends on the convolutions of family relationships and financial pressures in the setting of a house which is beginning to go out of practical use. I found it a textured, vivid and most engaging read, and I cannot wait for more mysteries from this talented author.   

Blind Witness by Vicki Goldie – an excellent first book of The Charters’ Mysteries Series


This is a wonderful, readable, exciting and highly desirable book! I have many books to read, but this one kept luring me back. A novel set in 1922, published in 2018, a murder mystery set in a country house. With a full and detailed knowledge of the Golden Age Detective novel, this book has so much going for it. It is the first book in a series featuring the Honourable Melissa Charters and her husband Major Alasdair Charters, and their discovery that together they can form a formidable detective and espionage team. While a wife and husband crime fighting team is not unique, this couple face a significant issue; Alasdair is totally blind as a result of his war service. He is sometimes despairing, frustrated by his inability to cope with daily life, let alone being active in identifying what soon emerges to be a murderer in their midst. 


This is more than a conventional murder mystery as there is the suggestion of espionage, especially given the period and the sensitivities of a country so recently involved in a war of so many casualties. The female characters are affected by a war in which they lost sons, lovers and potential husbands. There are fascinating descriptions of the setting, the full chintz of the huge house, contrasted with another local large establishment. Even the outbuildings receive attention, and the importance of Alasdair pacing out and being able to visualize the rooms and layout of the house. The servant problem is especially noted in the circumstances. The clothes worn by Melissa are described in delicious detail, especially as she has the good sense to wear appropriate clothing for her activities. There are also generous details of her eveningwear, which reveals not only extensive research but also a thorough creation of character. Overall there is a terrific sense of time and place in this book, a real depth of understanding of a time and a social system. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.


The book opens with a prologue in which someone hears a noise in the night which sounds significant. The focus soon moves to Alasdair and Melissa going downstairs for dinner. Much is revealed in the description of  the couple as he struggles with his white tie, he wants to be independent of his valet and wife, she reflects on the long battle to get him to leave their serviced flat since his discharge from hospital after suffering his serious injury. She has wanted to visit her aunt and uncle for some time, and this weekend houseparty was originally intended to gently reintroduce her husband to society. However, it soon becomes obvious that the number of people dining has increased, as guests include some of Melissa’s cousins, military men and others. A french countess and her companion turn up, and so does an irate banker full of allegations. In a very short time a full compliment of potential victims and possible murderers is installed in the house, and a classic murder mystery is established.


I so enjoyed this book because of the honest way that Melissa and Alasdair’s relationship is described, his frustrations rather than his immediate ability to do everything easily, his vulnerability when he realises the difficulties of defending himself or his wife. Melissa’s abilities are pointed out to her husband quite early in the novel “She grew up in the countryside, crack shot, excellent horsewoman, fit, and above all, intelligent to boot”, but it is not patronising. She is eager to do something to get to the bottom of the mysteries, and her actions balance her concern to protect others in the house, especially her husband.


This is a book I can whole heartedly recommend to all, and my only question remains: how and when can I read the next one in the series?