We are back in the Lake District with its unpredictable weather and beautiful scenery with the appealing Daniel Kind, historian who finds parallels between his specialism and the work of a detective, particularly when the crimes reach back in time.
I really enjoyed the first of Martin Edwards’ The Lake District Mysteries, The Coffin Trail and fortunately I had already purchased the second in the series. The key mystery in this book is the death many years ago of Warren Howe, a gardener, not greatly liked (in my opinion the best kind of victim as no energy is wasted mourning his loss) who was cut down in a customer’s garden with his own scythe. The case has come to the attention of Hannah Scarlett’s cold case team courtesy of an anonymous letter pointing the finger firmly towards his widow, Tina. But Daniel Kind is also seeking to find out whether there is a cipher in his garden and if so what does it reveal? This involves digging around in a different section of the past that the locals would equally like to be forgotten, but why?
Hannah Scarlett who is still not overjoyed to be heading up the ‘Cold Cases’ team, she would prefer to have been in the thick of the ongoing investigations, calls up the old files and is somewhat heartened to see the original investigation was led by one of life’s lazier policemen. It soon becomes very clear that there were a few likely suspects but in the absence of any real ‘hard-graft’ whoever it was has escaped justice for many years!
There is a proper mystery at the core of this book involving the brutal murder of Warren Howe and then there is the everyday lives of those investigating it but this is perfectly balanced with the lives of Martin Edwards’ chief protagonists Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind. In other words there is plenty to keep the reader entertained when the inevitable dead ends are reached.
I am really enjoying my crime fiction reads which have more of a classical feel to them, this isn’t a thriller, so the pace while never slow, is not so fast that everything passes in a blur until the inevitable confrontation. No this is a book that relies on a good plot and interesting characters to keep its reader’s interested. The characters are all exceptionally well-drawn from the teenage daughter of the dead man to the new husband of his widow, they all feel read by having a mixture of characteristics rather than cardboard cut outs waiting for their part in the plot. That said, there are a fair few of these characters to get to grips with and placing them, particularly if you haven’t read the first book, may cause a little consternation but not for long!
There is something I find very appealing about the small town setting and getting to know the inhabitants and the way they tick is at the root of the enjoyment, especially as they have all known each other for years and know where ‘the bodies are buried.’ This adds to the intrigue as Daniel Kind and Hannah Scarlett use very different techniques to get them to reveal the facts and although I had a fairly good idea before the reveal, I’m pleased to report that there was one secret I simply didn’t anticipate.
The Cipher Garden is the third of my Mount TBR reads (books I own and were purchased before 31 December 2016), so I’m bang on target so far but since there are another five books to read in this series, I’m not entirely sure that this is actually helping reduce the TBR, You can be sure I’ll have bought at least one more before the year is out!
The Lake District Mystery Series
The Coffin Trail (2004)
The Cipher Garden (2005)
The Arsenic Labyrinth (2007)
The Serpent Pool (2010)
The Hanging Wood (2011)
The Frozen Shroud (2013)
The Dungeon House (2015)