I’d been eagerly looking forward to reading Martin Edwards’s latest Lake District Mystery, The Serpent Pool and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a terrific book. It has everything, a great sense of location, believable, complex characters, a crime to solve, full of tension and well paced to keep you wanting to know more, and so atmospheric. I loved all the literary connections, the secondhand bookshop, the book collectors and historian, Daniel Kind’s research into the 19th century writer, Thomas de Quincey and his history of murder.
The earlier books in the series are The Coffin Trail, The Cipher Garden, and The Arsenic Labyrinth, featuring DCI Hannah Scarlet, in charge of the Cumbria’s Cold Case Team, her partner Marc Amos, a rare book dealer and Daniel Kind, a historian and the son of Hannah’s former boss, Ben Kind. See Martin’s website for more information.
The Serpent Pool begins with the death of George Saffell, one of Marc’s customers, stabbed and then burnt to death amidst his collection of rare and valuable books.The motive for his killing, the subsequent death of another of Marc’s customers, Stuart Wagg, and the connection with the cold case Hannah is investigating gradually become clear.
Hannah is investigating the apparent suicide of Bethany Friend who had drowned 6 years earlier in the Serpent Pool, a lonely, isolated place below the Serpent Tower, a folly high on a ridge. Her mother refused to accept she had killed herself, she had no suicidal tendencies and no known history of depression. She had drowned in just eighteen inches of water and was found with her hands loosely tied behind her back and her ankles tied together. Hannah and Greg Wharf, her new detective sergeant set about re-interviewing all the witnesses.
When Hannah discovers that Marc knew Bethany she wonders what he is hiding and why he had never mentioned it to her. Their relationship is not going well and to make matters worse she is still attracted to Daniel. Marc, in turn, seems dangerously attracted to Cassie Weston, a new employee.
The complex plot kept me guessing to the end of this gripping murder mystery.