The Magpie Tree by Katherine Stansfield
Cornish Mysteries #2
Jamaica Inn, 1844: the talk is of witches. A boy has vanished in the woods of Trethevy on the North Cornish coast, and a reward is offered for his return. Shilly has had enough of such dark doings, but her new companion, the woman who calls herself Anna Drake, insists they investigate. Anna wants to open a detective agency, and the reward would fund it. They soon learn of a mysterious pair of strangers who have likely taken the boy, and of Saint Nectan who, legend has it, kept safe the people of the woods. As Shilly and Anna seek the missing child, the case takes another turn – murder. Something is stirring in the woods and old sins have come home to roost.
1844 Jamaica Inn, Witches, gossip and a missing child!
‘The day I went to the Jamaica Inn was the day I saw a man hanged’
Right from the opening line, the author sets the scene and the era perfectly. Rumours of local witches and their involvement in a missing child case are rife. A community in fear and two sleuths are on the case. . . .
Shilly and Anna Drake have a desire to set up their own detective agency. But with a lack of funds to do so, their plans haven’t come to fruition. That is until they hear Sir Vivian Orton has offered a reward in the case of the missing child. The women set of on a journey to Trethevy, unaware of what awaits.
Along the journey the women debate the subject of witches, the danger it poses in the persecution of women. They know this case will be far from easy. Small town gossip spreads and has the whole community quickly gripped in fear.
Sir Vivian Orton’s wife (Lady phoebe) is heavily pregnant and this impedes their investigation, they are unable to question her. The missing boy, Paul Hakell also has a twin named Peter. The ladies begin their efforts by organising a search of the local tunnels and mineshafts. Then they are made aware of the local legend of Saint Nectan, protector of children!
Shilly and Anna are an unusual pairing, they are eccentric yet sensible. They each have very different personalities, but they complement each other very well. As the plot unravels their relationship progresses and you have a greater understanding of who they are and the lives that shaped them.
Local man, Simon Proctor claims to have seen the missing boy, near the location of a cottage. A cottage that has two sisters in residence. The locals remark that they often conversate in the ‘devils language’. Which the women quickly recognise as German. It is clear to see, how a miscommunication, in a small-minded community. Can grow into a fear mongering rumour that spreads.
The women have their work cut out in the small village of Trethevy.
Shillly and Anna agree to approach the sisters (with caution) and learn more about who they are and where they come from.
What they learn, will slowly help them unravel the case.
I really enjoyed the prose of this novel, it reminded me of the novel, Himself by Jess Kidd. With its odd characters and similar writing style. Every new development in the case adds more mystery and intrigue. The women quickly learn they can’t trust anyone around them and this makes for a great suspenseful read!
The novel has a very clever ending that reads right up to the very last page.
I look forward to future novels in the series. 5*
#1 in the Cornish Mysteries series:
Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield
1844. A brutal murder rocks Victorian Cornwall. In a place where the dead lie uneasy in their graves, to find a murderer a young woman must first learn who she can trust.
I had loved her, though she was cruel, though she was sly. She and I were just as the rest of the world – creatures falling, creatures failing.
Cornwall, 1844. On a lonely moorland farm not far from Jamaica Inn, farmhand Shilly finds love in the arms of Charlotte Dymond. But Charlotte has many secrets, possessing powers that cause both good and ill. When she’s found on the moor with her throat cut, Shilly is determined to find out who is responsible, and so is the stranger calling himself Mr Williams who asks for Shilly’s help. Mr Williams has secrets too, and Shilly is thrown into the bewildering new world of modern detection.