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by Martin Edwards
Poisoned Pen/Sourcebooks, August 2023
400 pages
ISBN: 1728271045

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Three different mysteries intertwine in this complex Golden Age-type of mystery, set in 1930s Northern England.

The story opens with journalist Nell Fagan, who has gone undercover in the remote Yorkshire village of Blackstone Fell. She tells the villagers that she's investigating an old mystery: two men walked into a locked gatehouse and disappeared. The twist? The disappearances happened 300 years apart, in 1606 and 1914. Nell is staying in the same creepy gatehouse, and from her first days there it seems someone is trying to kill her, or at least scare her off.

Nell, however, won't go that easily. And she's really investigating another story: mysterious deaths at a local sanitorium. To that end, she enlists the help of Rachel Savernake, who at 26 is a self-made private investigator. (This is the third in the Rachel Savernake Golden Age mysteries, but you don't need to read the previous books to enjoy this one.)

Finally, there's a third investigation. This one involves another journalist, Jacob Flint, who wants to expose a popular London psychic as a fraudster. Smitten with Rachel, Jacob gets pulled into her investigations too.

Along the way, the deaths pile up, as do the suspects. With so many plotlines, you might want to keep notes if you are trying to solve any of the puzzles. But, if you don't figure them out, author Martin Edwards has a "cluefinder" at the back of the book, so you can see where he deftly inserted those clues. I now wish all mysteries had this!

All the threads come together in Blackstone Fell, where Rachel Savernake reveals the truth with all the suspects gathered in a room, a la Poirot. Although set in the 1930s, the novel reads more like a modern update of an Agatha Christie novel, with compelling characters and a fast-paced plot. If you're a Golden Age fan—or even if you just like mysteries—you'll appreciate Edwards' fresh take.

§ Lourdes Venard is an editor for an education nonprofit and a copy editing instructor with the University of California, San Diego. She lives in Washington State.

Reviewed by Lourdes Venard, July 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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