“When lightning strikes an ancient crypt,
it exposes a devastating wartime secret”
Cordelia Hemlock is living in an English village near Hadrian’s Wall named Gilsland. A village which once housed a WWII POW camp. She lives alone in a grand house. She married for convenience, she, because she was pregnant with another man’s baby, and her husband, because he was of high social standing and a homosexual. He felt the marriage would camouflage his sexual preference from his bigwig friends and colleagues and thus retain his respectability. He lives in London.
Now Cordelia’s baby son has died and she is grieving. Alone. The villagers consider her to be a snooty ‘outsider’.
One day, as she is reading her book in the graveyard, she meets a local woman. When a sudden storm causes a deluge of rain, the women run for the woman’s house and shelter. A bolt of lightning hits a large tree and crashes down – right into the mausoleum of an ancient local family. Only a body falls out of the mausoleum… a fresh corpse.
“Sometimes it’s what you see which gets your eyes closed permanently…”
The two women, both in their early thirties, cannot believe their eyes. When they tell their story, they open a can of worms that begins with another death. That of a local man who was a longtime friend of Felicity’s.
How’s this for an opening line? “I was lying in a grave the first time I met Felicity.”
This is not the first book I’ve read by this author and I’m reminded now why I picked this novel. His writing style is one which I enjoy. He makes the characters come to life and weaves a story that makes you invested in the outcome. Also, he sets the scene in colourful prose which entertains and makes you SEE the landscapes of his imagination.
“The sky looked like a coalman’s bathwater.”
The unlikely friendship between the headstrong, educated Cordelia Hemlock and the meek, uneducated Felicity Goose was created masterfully and added greatly to my enjoyment of the novel.
Told in part via witness transcripts, the story set in 2010 relates events that occurred back in 1967. It was a clever way to deliver a dual timeline and it worked well here.
The story related how the French Resistance were overcome by evil in the form of the Milice. It spoke of war crimes, heroes, survivors, loss, betrayals, duplicity, and the part the intelligence service played in the aftermath of WWII.
“There’s no time limit on accountability.”
Not for the faint of heart, this story described unthinkable wartime atrocities. At the same time it was a village murder mystery. One which I recommend.
ISBN: 9780727888723 305 pages
David Mark spent seven years as crime reporter for the Yorkshire Post and now writes full-time. A former Richard & Judy pick and Sunday Times bestseller, he is the author of nine police procedurals in the DS Aector McAvoy series and one historical novel. He lives in Northumberland with his family.