A Death at Fountains Abbey

Written by Antonia Hodgson
Review by Ann Northfield

Third in the Thomas Hawkins series, after The Devil in the Marshalsea and The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, this novel is set in spring 1728. The South Sea Bubble has well and truly popped, and Hawkins is tasked by Queen Caroline, firstly with investigating violent threats to Lord Aislabie, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and widely held to be responsible for the disaster, and secondly and more secretly, with acquiring a certain green ledger book which contains all the insider details. In the wrong hands, this information could bring down the government and even the monarchy.

Hawkins travels up to Yorkshire to stay at Aislabie’s house with Sam and Kitty, key characters from the earlier books. Murder soon rears its head and ghosts from the past reappear. The daughter of Aislabie, who supposedly died in a house fire along with his wife, is brought back to him, but perhaps she is not what she seems.

The novel is excellent, full of historical details and narrative verve. The characters are multi-layered, and the plot skips along rapidly. It could possibly be read as a stand-alone, but the reader would only be depriving themselves of the two earlier books, which are both of a similarly high standard. Fascinating historical notes at the back give an added layer of depth and interest and clearly explain which events and characters were real. Very highly recommended and I’m already looking forward to number four. Fans of C. J. Sansom, Rory Clements and S. J. Parris will be very content if they pick up this (and the previous) offerings from Hodgson.