A historical fantasy set in England in the last quarter of the 18th century, this novel features the intrepid detective duo: pert widow Mrs. Harriet Westerman and severe Gabriel Crowther.
This is Robertson’s third Westerman/Crowther novel, and the second after Anatomy of Murder (2012) to appear in the U.S. this year. Obeying the conventions of the many genres increasingly conditioned by film, each section of the book notes the date, each chapter follows multiple stories simultaneously. The action takes place in a single week in the Lake Country in and around the town of Keswick. In the prologue, we read of the suitably melodramatic circumstances in which Gabriel renounced his name and title. Fast-forward 22 years: Crowther receives a letter from his sister, “the Vizegräfin Margret von Bolsenheim, is staying in our former home with her son as guests of the current owner. And they have found a body.” So begins a journey for Crowther into his past, into the origin of his family wealth, and the fate of The Luck, “a jeweled cross” that disappeared in 1715. Westerman, her young son, Stephen, and his tutor, Mr. Quince, travel with Crowther to join his bitter sister and her spoiled son, Felix, to enjoy the Austen-esque hospitality of Silverside Hall. After determining the cause of the desiccated corpse’s death, Crowther and Westerman turn their attention to the murder of a visiting Viennese gentleman. We learn that Hurst and his daughter, Sophia, have a claim on the feckless Felix, and suspicion falls on him—naturally. The local “cunning-man,” a sort of white witch named Casper Grace, features prominently. The hooks of the elaborate plot points are checked in color-coded ink: the bad meet bad ends, the good are rewarded, the arrogant are wounded and see with new eyes.
A sure hit for the audience of this CSI subgenre, the rest of us need not visit this Island.