The Body in the Boat (Hardcastle and Chaytor Mysteries)

Written by A. J. Mackenzie
Review by Susan McDuffie

Romney Marsh, 1796: A hidden smuggler spies a small coffin unloaded from a rival’s boat. A few weeks later another boat is discovered drifting on the tide, with a decidedly un-coffined corpse lying within it. The corpse is Hector Munro, a young banker. Justice of the Peace Reverend Hardcastle had recently attended a party given by the young man, but now he must investigate his murder. Meanwhile the Revolution roils across the channel, bringing refugees to English soil, while local citizens engage in constant smuggling. The reverend is aided in his search for Munro’s killer by his assistant, Joshua Stemp, and his friend, Mrs. Amelia Chaytor. Their investigations reveal some irregularities at Munro’s bank, and bring to light the possibility that the bank could fail, ruining many of the local folk. But which of the remaining partners could be behind the fraud? And why was Munro murdered? Are there more sinister motives at the root of this crime?

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical mystery. The characters, both major and minor, are well drawn, interesting, complex, and true to the era. The plot intrigues, and the writing skillfully draws the reader into this world of smugglers on the mist-shrouded Kentish coast. This is the third Hardcastle and Chaytor mystery. Readers can easily pick up any necessary backstory in this volume, but will most likely want to seek out the two earlier cases after reading this one. The Reverend Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor seem well worthy of a prolonged acquaintance! Recommended.