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.