The Heiress of Linn Hagh

Written by Karen Charlton
Review by Cecelia Holland

It’s England in 1809, a time of two-wheel shays, smoky taverns, highwaymen, and the Bow Street Runners, two of whose adherents star in this sprightly mystery.

Detective Lavender and Constable Woods arrive on the moors to investigate the disappearance of the heiress of the title, who has vanished out of a locked room in her own house on the eve of coming into her inheritance. As the two Londoners work out the tangled family history behind this seemingly impossible event, they discover a whole spectrum of characters, from the local gypsies to the heiress’s poor mentally disabled brother, the only true innocent – a cast that often seems just popped from Mr. Fielding’s novels, who founded the Bow Street Runners.

“Katherine Armstrong was well wrapped up against the cold in a purple, fur-trimmed pelisse over her brown dress. She wore stout boots and a domed velvet bonnet that matched her coat. Her funny-shaped hat, decorated with artificial berries, reminded Lavender of a plum pudding. This was a good metaphor for her, he decided: rich, full of goodness, traditional and probably only remembered by her family on Christmas Day.”

The lively characters and vivid local color propel the story more than the thin plot; Lavender, in any case, has solved the main piece of that, the locked room, fairly early, in a nice piece of period detail. Clearly, more will come about Lavender and Woods, an interesting prospect.