A new Sharon Bolton novel is always cause for me to celebrate. Though I wasn’t able to procure an advance reader’s copy of “The Craftsman“, I simply just HAD to buy a copy and read it before the end of the year. Merry Christmas me!
Summer 1999 – Accompanied by her teenage son Ben, senior policewoman Florence Lovelady has traveled to Lancashire from London to attend the funeral of one of the men she helped to put in prison thirty years ago. The man was once her landlord, and her visit to her former home is fraught with traumatic memories. He was incarcerated for killing three teenagers. He buried them alive…
Though the book opens in the year 1999, most of the narrative is set in June of 1969. Florence Lovelady is a very young police constable, the only female in a station of males. The time period was very sexist and Florence was relegated to making tea and doing other chores deemed worthy of her sex. Until… her superior intellect makes her noticed by her superiors. Three teenage children have gone missing from their small Lancashire village. The last of the three vanished after entering a ginnel on her way home from school.
When Florence literally unearths one of the victims, she is made a part of the investigation team. The young girl’s body was found in an ancient graveyard in the shadow of Pendle Hill.
The body was accompanied by a ‘clay picture‘ or effigy. A hand wrought figure of clay stuck with wooden picks. Black magic at work…
Florence creates charts detailing the teenagers last movements. She is a skilled detective despite her youth and inexperience. She is resented by her male colleagues.
As she comes nearer to finding the murderer, she herself is suspected of being in collusion with him because she is so clever at deciphering the clues.
She finds she has few friends at the police station. Even her lover, the married Tom Devine, seems to have turned against her. Her only friends now are the witches…. She is invited to stay at their home.
Then… Florence herself is abducted.
The author couldn’t have found a more atmospheric setting if she tried. In the shadow of Pendle Hill, Lancashire – world famous for it’s ancient history of witches and general creepiness, it was the perfect backdrop for the story. The author’s intimate knowledge of the area shows – it is where she grew up.
As usual, Bolton creates characters so real that they fairly leap off the page, often finding themselves well and truly entrenched in the reader’s psyche. I positively loved Florence and admired how the narrative showed her struggles in a career which at the time was mostly populated by men.
Written in the first person, the reader is privy to Florence’s thoughts, ideas, and insecurities.
I was more than excited to learn that “The Craftsman” is the first in a proposed trilogy. The second title being “The Cunning Wife”.
It will come as no surprise to most folks that I HIGHLY recommend “The Craftsman”. After all, it was written by a true ‘craftswoman’.
Link to the Reading Group Guide for “The Craftsman”.
Sharon (formerly S.J.) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer. She is the author of the bestselling Lacey Flint series, as well as a number of stand-alone thrillers.
Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.
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