Thursday, May 11, 2023

Blackstone Fell - Martin Edwards

For the first time in forever, I've read as many books on holiday as I've bought (2) and I'm feeling quite pleased with myself on the back of it. Blackstone Fell is the third book in Martin Edwards' Rachel Savernake series. I missed it when it came out in hardback, grabbed it in paperback, and was asked a few days later if I'd like to be part of the blog tour for book number 4 - Sepulchre Street. I did, that post will appear in about a week. It also pushed Blackstone Fell to the top of my reading pile.

I enjoy Martin Edwards' books generally when they come my way, and I particularly admire this series - he has a rare knack for capturing the spirit of the era. His impressive knowledge of golden age crime classics is obvious but he also wears the learning lightly. The result is something that feels right without ever over-explaining details. The cast of characters is excellent too.

Rachel Savernake as the beautiful but mysterious young woman with both will and nerves of steel and a penchant for solving murders is appealing, but also slightly distant from the reader. Her close retinue of servants adds the human touch. In this book, it's the growing fondness between her tame fleet street reporter, Jacob, and maid, Martha that's intriguing along with the growing disquiet of Hetty and Trueman for the path they're all on. I'm interested to see where the next book takes these undercurrents.

Rachel's aloofness is one of the touches that really lifts the series - she wouldn't make sense as a character any other way. Blackstone Fell introduces a couple of other strong though very different women into the mix with journalist Nell Fagen, and her old governess Peggy Needham. It's Nell Fagen who sets everything in motion - she's trying to uncover a major scoop but knows she's slightly out of her depth, she tries and fails to manipulate Rachel which costs her dearly when she becomes the third person to disappear from a mysterious lodge house. 

Rachel is curious enough to head to Yorkshire to solve the case though, and from there, we get the series trademark gothic touch in good measure. There's plenty of moral ambiguity, murderous goings on, high drama, and a satisfying conclusion to it all - the addition of a clue finder at the back of the book so that the reader can go back and piece together all the necessary details is a nice touch. More next week!

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