Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Blackstone Fell

 Blackstone Fell (2022) by Martin Edwards

It's autumn 1930 and disgraced crime reporter Nell Fagan is on the trail of a story which she hopes will pave her way back to the good graces of Fleet Street. The trail starts with Vernon Murray and his request that Nell help him solve the murder of his mother. After his father's death she had married a younger man whom Vernon was certain was just after her money. Thomas Baker soon put a barrier up between Vernon and his mother and before the marriage was too old, Ursula Baker fell ill (according to Baker) and was sent to a sanitarium at Blackstone Fell for rest and recuperation. Except she didn't recuperate...she died. Vernon is certain that his mother was deliberately killed so Baker could make off with the money, but has no proof and the authorities just believe him to be a disgruntled, disinherited man.

Nell goes to to Blackstone Fell and finds plenty of mystery...the place has been the site of two disappearances--300 years apart--from a locked gatehouse connected to Blackstone Tower. Two men went into the gatehouse and never came out (or so they say) Nell, under a pseudonym, professes great interest in the legends surrounding the disappearances and uses her interest to cover her investigation of the sanitarium. But someone has seen through her pose and a boulder narrowly misses her when she walking in one of the areas where the men's bodies may have been hidden. So, Nell returns to London to seek help from an unexpected source...Rachel Savernake, the woman who made every effort to see that Nell would never write for a reputable paper again.

But Rachel has a reputation for solving incredible mysteries and Nell is sure that Rachel won't be able to resist the stories circulating about Blackstone Fell. She's right, but Rachel still isn't keen to help the woman who tried to dig up her past especially since she knows Nell isn't telling her everything she knows. When Vernon Murray winds up dead--an "accident" in the underground--and then Nell is also killed in an apparent accident, Rachel decides to take up the case in earnest. As might be expected, she finds that the mystery is deeper than even Nell imagined.

Martin Edwards has done his best to tick all the boxes for Golden Age fans--from clues hidden in plain sight to a handy map at the front of the book, from shady clerics and charming medicos to characters who aren't at all what/who they seem, from a locked room setting to mediums and seances, from small village setting to fog-bound countryside to a suspenseful wrap-up scene and a handy Cluefinder list at the end to show readers where they missed all those "plain sight" clues. The only thing missing to make it perfect in GAD trappings is the list of characters with pithy little descriptions.

This is the third in the Rachel Savernake series and Edwards is still going strong. Great setting and set-up and he manages to keep things fresh with new ways to connect to the Golden Age era but with his own twists. A thoroughly enjoyable mystery experience that I raced through. ★★ and 1/2.

First line: "Seeing isn't always believing."

Last line: "Someone who knows exactly which path to take."


Deaths = 19 (five poisoned; one suicide by gas; one buried alive; one run over by underground train; one car accident; one hit on head; two hanged; two fell from height; two shot; one battered to death; two natural)

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