Amazon have this thing where you get to pick one of four new books for free for a month, this month I picked this one. I’m glad I did, because I’m not sure I’d be happy to pay for this book.
The book is set in 1953 and sees spy Hugo Hawksworth move to Selchester to take up a dull desk job having been injured in action. Selchester is rather quiet and he moves into the castle as a temporary measure. There he meets Freya, one of the trustees who tends the castle after the Earl vanished in 1947 during a blizzard while hosting a dinner party.
Soon, however, the Earl’s body is found under the flagstones. The police want it dealt with quickly, and London agrees, due to the Earl’s work for the government. Hugo is asked to keep an eye on proceedings, but the proposed cover up irks him.
The Earl’s deceased son is lined up as the main suspect, meaning there will be no trial, although Freya is also implicated as an accessory to the crime.
Can Freya and Hugo find out what really happened? Why was there such a mixed group of guests? And was the Earl the respectable man he was viewed as?
Here’s the thing with this book, it’s not awful. The story has some good ideas, mixing an Agatha Christie style whodunnit with some Cold War paranoia, and some of the dialogue is well observed. The problem is that it has plenty of flaws.
None of the characters is fleshed out enough. Hugo is a little dull and Freya isn’t much better. In fact the most interesting and we’ll written character is Hugo’s gobby, strong willed 13 year old sister.
Uninspiring characters is one thing, but the pacing is off, slowly developing before a frantic, far too quick, conclusion. The plot isn’t that involving and a bad sign for a mystery/thriller is that I found it easy to put down and no real desire to pick it back up again.
The story, despite potential, fizzles and the characterisation is far too shallow. It failed to engage me and I won’t be checking out the sequel it hints towards at the end.
Verdict: A rather disappointing book. The idea of a mystery mixed with espionage is a good one, but Edmondson fails to make the most of it. The pace didn’t work for me and none of the characters engaged, making the book a bit of a slog with an unsatisfying ending. 3/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.