A murder mystery chronicles an English estate’s attacks by a serial assailant.
Andrew and Nicola, two American expatriates, live on Trevega House, an old estate in the English countryside. They’re raising Lee, an 11-year-old girl, orphaned when both her parents died tragically in an accident. She’s an unusually precocious child with a powerfully clairvoyant sense. A series of disturbing events shatters the family’s peaceful existence. First, a cow on their property is cruelly killed, its throat slit. Then, a cottage is set ablaze, the family dog is attacked, a well is poisoned, Andrew’s car is sabotaged, and an attempt is even made on Lee’s life. The onslaught culminates in the murder of a neighbor, Mary Trevean. Detective Chief Inspector Arthur Penwarren puts his best investigator, Morgan Davies, on the case. Penwarren is friends with the owner of Trevega House, Sir Michael Rhys-Jones, an adviser to Prince Charles and MI5. Complicating matters, Sir Michael’s estranged son, Jeremy, Nicola’s abusive ex-husband, has gone missing, and his combination of resentment and mental instability make him a prime suspect. This is the third installment of author North’s (Season’s End, 2016, etc.) Davies & West mystery series, and it reprises some characters from an earlier novel, Water, Stone, Heart (2009)—Lee originally appears in that work. The plot is complex but not torturously so, and North skillfully metes out enough detail to make the story suspenseful, but not so quickly as to clumsily foreshadow the conclusion. Morgan Davies remains a memorable hero; she’s fiercely independent but also emotionally sensitive as a result of her own past traumas, a vulnerability that becomes apparent in her connection to Lee. “She understood. They were both instinctive and impatient searchers for answers. It was why Morgan had entered the force: to find answers, to serve justice. But she knew there would be no answers for this girl, no comfort for her losses.” Also, despite the macabre subject matter, North leavens the mood with plenty of lighthearted humor, particularly in the jostling exchanges between Davies and her partner, Calum West.
An engrossing tale that artfully combines moral darkness and comic levity.