The spirit of Thomas De Quincey hovers over a Lake District murder case.
Six years after Bethany Friend drowned in barely 18 inches of water, DCI Hannah Scarlett, assigned to Cumbria Constabulary Cold Cases, is reopening the enquiry. Assisted by cheeky new hire DS Greg Wharf, Hannah has barely started when George Saffell and his valuable book collection burn to a crisp. Then Stuart Wagg is dropped down a well. What did the victims have in common? To Hannah’s discomfort, the answer is her lover, bookseller Marc Amos, who’d hired Bethany and sold first editions to George and Stuart. Equally disconcerting, the true love of Hannah’s life, historian Daniel Kind, resented Stuart for his abusive treatment of Daniel’s sister Louise. Meanwhile, Marc’s attentions are wandering from Hannah to his new assistant, beautiful, mysterious Cassie Weston. It turns out that Bethany and Cassie had been lovers at university, and that George’s widow Wanda once romanced Stuart. Now Wanda is privately printing a book on Thomas De Quincey, the subject of a local festival chaired by Arlo Denstone at which Daniel will deliver the keynote address. Unfortunately, the festival is being mismanaged; Arlo has disappeared; and Marc is well on his way to joining the deceased at the hands of fervent De Quincey fans.
Apart from an over-the-top denouement, Edwards (Waterloo Sunset, 2008, etc.) provides a credible pairing of cozy and cerebral storytelling.