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30 March 2008
THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH, Martin Edwards
Here I am in Perth airport waiting for my flight back to Adelaide. At 2am this morning Perth "went off" daylight saving so we got an extra hour to sleep in, which would have been really good if Qantas hadn't kept SMSing me with new flight departure times from about 5.30 am.
At this moment I think Perth and Brisbane may be the only capital cities not on daylight saving and so the time difference between Perth and Adelaide for this week is 2hrs 30 mins. My plane leaves here at 9am and arrives in Adelaide at about 2pm. Feels like I am throwing the day away.
Last night I finished THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH, Martin Edwards, Poisoned Pen Press, 2007, 291 pp.
Ten years have passed since Emma Bestwick disappeared in Coniston in the Lakes District, and also since Guy was last there. When a local journalist runs a story on Emma's disappearance, Guy can't resist telling someone what he knows. If anything Guy is a bit of a leech, a wastrel, a ladies' man, and he not only wants to salve his conscience, but also to capitalise on his secret knowledge.
DCI Hannah Scarlett, now head of Cumbria's Cold Case Review Team, remembers the Emma Bestwick case quite well, and is pressured not only by the press, but also by her opportunistic Assistant Chief Constable, to reinvestigate the case, or at least to take a look at the file.
Hannah is conscious too that after a recent failed investigation where she was left with egg on her face, and the press had a field day, success in re-opened investigation can only improve her public image. Just before Emma Bestwick disappeared totally without trace, she appeared to have come into some new wealth, but those she lived and worked with could not throw any light on where it came from, and it was assumed that she had left the district to start a new life, perhaps with a new man.
THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH is the third title in Martin Edwards' Lake District series featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett, and Daniel Kind, son of her old boss. I read the first book in the series, THE COFFIN TRAIL, and really enjoyed it, but haven't yet got to the second THE CIPHER GARDEN, and have decided I must track it down.
I like the way Edwards mixes knowledge about the history of the Lakes District (which I have visited 2 or 3 times), in this case the production of arsenic as a byproduct of copper mining, with the elements of whodunnit and whydunnit. The thread of the investigation is interwoven with human interest elements, the story of Daniel Kind and his partner Miranda seeking to live the quieter rural life in Tarnfold; Hannah Scarlett and Mark Amos struggling to maintain a satisfying relationship in the face of Hannah's work and his expanding bookshop business. There are many elements that the reader will recognise: the rise and fall of family fortunes over the generations, the struggle to make ends meet, gambling addiction, vulnerability, and greed.
THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH is on the face of it a variation of a cozy, a police procedural, but with some unexpected twists to the plot.
Read more about everything Martin is involved in at his site http://www.martinedwardsbooks.com/index.htm Follow his blog at http://www.doyouwriteunderyourownname.blogspot.com/
My rating: 4.5