4 / 5 Stars
In 1969 WPC Florence Lovelady's career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders. 30 years later she returns to bury him...
Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he's dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves. Did she get it wrong all those years ago? Or is there something much darker at play?
This is my first novel by the well followed and prolific author, Sharon Bolton. Crime thrillers are not normally my thing, but the premise seemed quite dark with a taste of the supernatural so I thought I’d give it a pop. I’m glad I did.
The novel is set in Sabden, Lancashire; not far from the infamous Pendle Hills (famed for witchcraft and England’s most notorious witch trials of the 17th century). It’s against this backdrop that the story plays out and it’s influence seeps onto every page. The tale is gripping, a little twisted with a brooding, dark feel to it. This is achieved, in part, by the author’s description of the bleak northern landscape and the attitude and mindset of its residents.
It’s a tale about cloistered, close-knit communities, small town attitudes, prejudice and the sexism that existed in the 60’s, as we see WPC Lovelady attempting to break into a man's world and the difficulties and obstacles faced. The attitude of the male and female characters and their demeanour showcase this perfectly and make the reader ill at ease and uncomfortable.
There’s a real feel of suffocation and claustrophobia in more ways than one. (Slight spoiler) The plot is tightly woven with the now normal two timeline storylines which works fairly well as the jump between the timelines are infrequent. In fact I preferred the story set in the 60’s where there was a lot more going on, more intrigue, and where the prejudice was highlighted and examined so well. The character of Florence Lovelady is excellent. A true bastion of female empowerment and a true signifier of the struggle for a women in a male-dominated profession and world. The supporting characters are mostly unpleasant and menacing and this helps to keep the level of tension high. Chuck in some witchcraft, murky Freemasons and some malevolent children and you have a creepy, sometimes chilling read. It’s fast paced,entertaining and easy to read, the twist and ending is probably a little predictable but an enjoyable read none the less.