A private investigator’s pleasure trip turns into a murder hunt.
Her suitor, Dr. Lucian Simonson, has invited Kate Shackleton to use the Yorkshire house he inherited from his aunt. Kate (Death of an Avid Reader, 2016, etc.) thinks it will be the perfect place for her niece Harriet, who’s recovering from diphtheria, to build up her strength while Kate gets to know Lucian better. Soon after she settles in, Bradley Wigglesworth, an old friend of Lucian’s Aunt Freda, brings Kate a puzzle he wants her help with. Freda has been shunned by many of the villagers ever since she testified in defense of Flaherty, an Irishman accused of murdering a publican who tossed him out of his bar. Freda saw the whole thing from her house across the street, but her testimony wasn’t believed at the trial, and to her everlasting regret, Flaherty was hanged. Although loath to take up a lost cause, Kate agrees to look into it because she feels indebted to Freda, who believed in her investigative powers. Kate also becomes involved in the case of Martin, a young boy whose sister Beth, a friend of Harriet’s, fears for his safety when he’s sent to work on a ramshackle hill farm. After breaking farmer Gouthwaite’s leg while escaping from a beating, Martin has struck out on his own. While looking for Martin, Kate visits a farm whose farmer is obviously dead, perhaps poisoned. Gabriel Cherry, who worked for Gouthwaite, helps Kate look for Martin, but he too has secrets to hide. The past holds the answers to many questions that even Lucian would prefer Kate left to the police.
An excellent British cozy less notable for its plethora of not-very-challenging mysteries than for its atmospheric setting, its interesting characters, and a twist with unexpected bite.