Sword and Song

Written by Roz Southey
Review by Sara Wilson

Charles Patterson, musician by trade and detective by inclination, returns for another 18th-century murder mystery. This time he is called to the murder of a young prostitute, Nell, who also happened to be loved by his good friend Constable Bedwalters. It becomes apparent that Nell has been murdered because of a tatty old book of church music.

Whilst trying to track down the killer, Charles is also hired as a resident musician for Edward Alyson’s country house party. There he meets Casper Fischer, an American gentleman searching for an unusual inheritance – a tatty old book of church music.

Matters are initially complicated when Patterson is attacked at the house party and further by the unexpected appearance of Esther Jerdoun, the older woman who he loves but has foresworn.

Sword and Song is a rather unusual historical mystery. 18th-century Newcastle is vividly portrayed, the characters are quirky and charming, and the plot is satisfyingly perplexing. Nothing unusual about that, but here comes the twist. Alongside all the expected elements of the genre, this novel also has a unique selling point. Many of the characters are spirits, tied to the places in which they died but quite able to talk, gossip and lie to the living. Alongside that, there also exists an alternate reality that Charles can step into and out of, a place where time and events differ somewhat to “real” life. This adds a whole new dimension to the novel and lifts it above the ordinary. Well worth looking out for.