The Sculthorpe Murder

Written by Karen Charlton
Review by Cynthia Slocum

Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Ned Woods of London’s Bow Street Police Office arrive in a small town in Northamptonshire at the request of the area magistrate to investigate a brutal murder of an elderly man, and they soon discover evidence that contradicts the local authorities’ assumptions about the perpetrators and motive. Even the murder victim and his sole surviving family member pose an enigma.

As the investigation unfolds and expands to a nearby town in pursuit of potential suspects, the past and present misdeeds and improprieties of several inhabitants of the area warrant scrutiny. Constable Woods stays behind, connecting bits of the puzzle through casual inquiries, while Detective Lavender travels home to London to consult sources there regarding other key information. During Lavender’s absence, Woods must come to grips with a figure from his own past, a shadowy specter that has haunted his nightmares. Lavender returns confidently armed with conclusive facts and finds a significant surprise awaiting him. In addition to solving their case, the detective and constable must prevail against adversaries neither expected to encounter.

This traditional-style mystery evokes life in the English countryside of 1810 along the canal network, using authentic details and conjuring a cast of imaginable residents. Its resolute investigative duo moves the action forward at an urgent pace, and clues multiply and interlock steadily throughout the book’s well-constructed plot.