The paterfamilias passes away, 1909.
Wealthy mill owner Ainsley Beaumont succumbs to his fate after falling into the Cross Ings Mill dam, helped along by a stout cosh with a stone. The obvious suspects are his bad-tempered, widowed daughter-in-law Amelia and her twins Gideon, who’s eager to modernize the mill and improve its working conditions, and Una, who’s determined to follow Mrs. Pankhurst’s example and liberate women. But it would be premature to rule out Beaumont’s partners at cards, Whiteley Hirst, the mill manager saddled by debt, and Dr. Widdop, who knows many of the secrets of the local Yorkshire women. And of course there is the surprise inheritor of £15,000: Laura Harcourt, who had been in Beaumont’s employ organizing his library for only a week. Is the death connected to the fire 20 years back that gutted one wing of Beaumont’s home and killed his son? Does it have to do with a missive stashed away on a high shelf in his library explaining the plight of Benjamin Kindersley and Lucie Picard, one long gone, the other dead soon after childbirth? Laura’s meeting with handsome engineer Tom Illingworth on the moor brings Jane Eyre to mind. But there are enough marital infidelities and scandalous births, suffragette pamphleteering and trade union speeches to invoke a whole shelf of period fiction.
Eccles (The Shape of Sand, 2005, etc.) so overstuffs her plot that one can only pity the poor inspector who must wade through all this pother on the eve of his retirement.