A grieving woman researches a possible murder in this novel by Hall (The Physics of Imaginary Objects, 2010, etc.).
One year and seven months after the loss of her parents and twin sister at sea, Henna, a freelance encyclopedia writer who specializes in entries having to do with water, moves to an unnamed village where her constant companions are the oppressive snow and her sister's basset hound, Rembrandt. When Henna finds a woman's dead body under a hawthorn bush at the edge of the woods, she resolves to find out the secret meaning of the woman's death, who was responsible for it, and how it's connected to Lady Jane Franklin's search for her Arctic-explorer husband, who disappeared with his two ships in 1845. Suspects include the "rakishly handsome" police chief, Fletcher, his unusual mother, Eleanor, and their alarmingly attractive and intrusive housekeeper, Dita. Is Fletcher innocent of the woman's death, or has Henna been "blinded by a spot of canoodling"? Birds, blood, the town library's tower room, and Fletcher's strange house combine with other elements to create a deliciously creepy atmosphere. The story is captivating and well paced apart from the heavy-handed reportage of Rembrandt's activities and an unremarkable ending.
An inventive premise, lush imagery, and a shameful historical secret nicely elevate an otherwise formulaic cabin-in-the-woods story.