After a career in TV production Helen Bettinson recently ditched a long commute around the M25 in order to concentrate on reading, and perhaps even writing, crime fiction.
Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are not your average sleuths. She, the unconventional and feisty widow of a Navy captain, and he, the misanthropic aristocrat with the shady background, nonetheless form an entertaining, if unlikely, pairing in this diverting historical whodunit.
In their third literary outing author Imogen Robertson plucks the friends from the gentility of their Sussex homes and deposits them on the stony shores of Derwent Water in Cumbria. At Silverside Hall their scientific rationalism comes up hard against the myths and legends of an older, pagan order, albeit one overlaid with the disturbances and tragedies of a more recent past. For though the novel is set in the 1780s the crimes it describes were committed forty years earlier – sparked by failed Jacobite uprisings and the commercial ambitions of local gentry.
So what draws Westerman and Crowther so far from the comforts of home? Why should they care about the identities of a decades-old skeleton and his murderer? The answer lies in the twisted family background of the enigmatic Gabriel Crowther, finally unmasked as the real Lord Keswick on whose former estate the body is discovered.
Robertson skilfully interweaves heavyweight social and political themes with Crowther’s journey of familial redemption. Meanwhile her minor characters participate in a variety of intriguing subplots that stretch, not improbably, from the prehistoric ruins of the locality to the duelling clubs and gambling houses of Central Europe. A well-researched and executed treat for lovers of the historical genre.
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