The Mermaid’s Call (Cornish Mysteries)

Written by Katherine Stansfield
Review by Julie Parker

In this novel we accompany Anna Drake, who has founded a female detective agency, and her friend Shilly as they take on a case to investigate the identity of a dead man. The case is brought to them by Captain Ians, who has had a dream about the body and has travelled from the other side of the world in the belief that it is his brother Joseph. The body has been found on the beach near Morwenstow in North Cornwall and has been badly mutilated, removing bodily parts. It is uncertain whether the man has been washed ashore after being battered on the knife-like rocks nearby, or whether he has been done to death in some other way. Anna and Shilly pose as husband and wife whilst on their travels away from home, their detective company being called Williams and Williams, and there are hints that Anna Drake was once known as Mrs Williams, the name now taken by Shilly, whose real name is Charlotte.

The writer evokes the wildness of this part of north Cornwall’s shore very well, and the descriptions of the hostile weather are vividly done. The characters are well delineated and include the factual vicar of Morwenstow at this time, the Reverend Robert Hawker, also a poet, as well as Mr Good, the coroner. The vicar’s wife is also a key figure, as is the Seldon family who live in the farmhouse nearby. Many local folk tales are referenced in the supernatural aspects of the story, specifically those recalling mermaids and siren voices. There are enough unresolved clues in the narrative to encourage the reader to go to the first two books in the series, Falling Creatures and The Magpie Tree. There is also a tantalising glimpse on the last page of, possibly, their next case.