The Silent Companions has been getting excellent reviews and I’d been looking forward to a quiet weekend to read this new novel by Laura Purcell. Elsie, newly married and recently widowed, is pregnant and travels to her late husband’s house accompanied by his cousin, to await the birth of her child. There, she discovers a grim house, the object of mistrust by the villagers, where creepy wooden figures, the silent companions of the book’s title, keep appearing. It’s part ghost story, part historical mystery and a compelling read. There’s an inevitability about Elsie’s fate that keeps you turning the pages and the historical detail creates an atmospheric background to the unfolding drama.
Sarah Hawkswood writes mediaeval mysteries featuring Sergeant Catchpoll and Undersheriff Bradecote. The books are set in the Worcestershire area, a region I don’t know very well but am discovering in Hawswood’s books. In Marked to Die, a deadly archer is picking off his victims and disappearing into the forest, alarming the residents of Droitwich who threaten to take the law into their own hands to discover the culprit. I love the level of period detail in Hawkswood’s work and the life she imbues into her characters. There’s a hint of unrealised supernatural and a sense of fun in the narrative which makes the book a great addition to the series.
The Z Murders is by J. Jefferson Farjeon author of Mystery in White which became a bestseller following its reissue by the British Library. The Z Murders has an atmospheric beginning as traveller Richard Temperley arrives into Euston station on a sleeper train and goes to the smoking room at a nearby hotel at dawn to wait for London to wake. He finds the man with whom he shared his train carriage dead in the room and a woman he briefly saw sitting by the fire has disappeared. Motivated by chivalry and a desire to discover the truth of the killing, he outwits the police and goes in search of the woman. The book has such a promising start and I absolutely loved the description of thirties London. When the chase takes them across the country through Boston in Lincolnshire and on to Whitchurch the narrative is less compelling but it’s still an interesting read.