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4.8 out of 5 stars50
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DCI Hannah Scarlett is investigating the 6 year old murder of Bethany Friend who was found dead in the Serpent Pool not far from where she now lives. Was it murder or could it conceivably have been suicide? Her partner, rare book dealer Marc Amos, seems to think she is wasting her time re-opening the case, but Hannah doesn't think she is. The rest of Hannah's colleagues, meanwhile, are investigating the death of a local rare book collector - George Saffell - burned to death along with his valuable book collection.

Marc and Hannah are not getting on too well even though they have recently bought an old house with the intention of renovating it. I thought the scenes near the beginning of the book where Hannah is checking everything she says in order not to start a row were cleverly done and very true to life. Hannah is wondering whether Marc knows more about Bethany than he is saying and just how well he knows a new member of his staff, Cassie Weston.

I was hooked from the very first page of this complex mystery. It is well written and the characters are three dimensional and all too human. I enjoyed trying to work out in advance the links between people. I liked the way Hannah debates with herself about whether to contact Daniel Kind - the son of her former boss - again, even though she knows it might not be a good idea to do so. The rare books background is interesting as are the discussions about Thomas De Quincey - about whom Daniel is supposed to be writing a book. The Lake District in winter broods over the whole story like a character in its own right and the sense of place is very strong.

If you like your crime with not too much violence on the page, with believable characters and a mystery which is difficult to unravel then you will enjoy `The Serpent Pool'. In my opinion it is the best of the author's Lake District Series which started with `The Coffin Trail' and continued with `The Cipher Garden' and `The Arsenic Labyrinth'. I enjoyed it and found I had to keep reading once I'd started. I shall look forward to future additions to this series.
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on 20 August 2012
Although I usually read True Crime books I have enjoyed reading all five crime novels in Martin Edwards's Lake District series. The novels have interesting story lines involving several key characters that appear in each book and the lead up to the denouement is cleverly constructed to remain ambiguous yet still hold the reader's interest. Martin Edwards writes with humour and insight into human behaviour under stress and the beginnings and endings are excellent. I particularly enjoyed 'The Serpent Pool' - the final scene is quite something and I look forward to reading the sixth book in the series.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 August 2010
Six years ago a girl drowned herself - but was it really murder? Now two book collectors have been killed in mysterious circumstances and Hannah Scarlet has to work out the connections between them all while negotiating her own difficult love life.

This is the first Martin Edwards I've read and I found it both disappointing and formulaic. The beginning, especially the dialogue, feels very forced and self-conscious, and the story itself is full of the clichés of the genre. So Hannah spends a lot of time wondering whether her live-in boyfriend of years could actually be the murderer; there are `hidden' clues that should have been in full view of everyone; and the climax is Hannah's rush to rescue the last victim all on her own with no back-up.

With an incredibly over-wrought solution (in a Wagnerian way) I found this book completely unconvincing.
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on 30 January 2010
New Year's Eve, and DCI Hannah Scarlett is reluctantly readying herself for a party hosted by rich lawyer Stuart Wagg, but anything she muses is an improvement after spending Christmas - seven claustrophobic days cheek by jowl with Marc's (her partner's) family. As Stuart is one of Marc's best customers, and having recently moved to a new house that needs a lot of work, they need all the money they can get. Marc Amos is a second hand book-seller, specializing in rare books, and with his best customer recently being found burnt to death along with all his books, Marc cannot afford to lose another customer.

Back at work Hannah Scarlett, head of the Cold Cases Division of the Cumbria Constabulary is currently looking into the death of Bethany Friend, who six years ago died from drowning in The Serpent's Pool. But was it suicide or murder? As Hannah interviews the people who knew Bethany she begins to suspect that Marc knew Bethany but if he did he has never mentioned it when the subject has come up - is Marc hiding something? And could it have anything to do with Bethany's death. The easiest thing would be to ask him, but the relationship between Hannah and Marc is already strained, and so she puts it off trying to find the right time.

Hannah and Marc have clearly moved apart in their relationship, and although their differences must have always been there they are now becoming more apparent as time passes. The relationship problems are handled well, with skill and sensitivity, and contribute much to the feel of the story. Marc is clearly very attractive and every so often does something that reminds Hannah why she fell in love with him, but there is no doubt that he gets petulant, when things don't go his way and that can be wearing

Meanwhile Daniel Kind, to whom Hannah was attracted, has now returned from his six month stint in the USA. Another death gives occasion for them to meet and the attraction resurfaces. But as Hannah begins to make links between the deaths, Marc is pursuing a line of enquiry of his own!

A past unsolved death - recent unexplained deaths, complex relationships, past and present make this is a page turner. Martin Edwards skillfully weaves all the past and present events into a fascinating story with a nail-biting climax.

I have enjoyed all the books in this series but this it the best to date. Once I started it I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.
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Lizzie Hayes
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on 13 September 2011
The story is fair although there is little tension or excitement. It was difficult to care about the characters who did not come across as real people. Overall disappointing.
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on 23 December 2013
This is the 4th book in this series and the 3rd I have read this year. I started at the beginning with 'The Coffin Trail' The Coffin Trail which was a bit disappointing 3*; then 'The Arsenic Labyrinth' ARSENIC LABYRINTH, THE (Lake District Mysteries)a bit better 4* and today I finished 'The Serpent Pool' at a rapid pace, much the best and it must be worth 5*. Perhaps though it is best to read those earlier books in the series because by doing so I had more knowledge of the history and past of the main characters in this book. Hannah Scarlett & her live-in partner bookseller Marc Amos feature prominently and so too do Daniel Kind and his sister Louise the children of Hannah's late boss Ben Kind.

Hannah Scarlett has been sidelined by her publicity-courting senior officer and is in charge of the cold case unit in Cumbria Police. A double backwater you might think. The case which she begins to investigate is the death of Bethany Friend 6 years ago. Did she die in the Serpent Pool as a ritual suicide or was she murdered and if so by whom? Then is there any connection between her death and the death of a wealthy local man, and then the trail of death takes a personal turn for Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind. Just when Hannah is most confused between her competing feelings for Marc and Daniel.

The plot develops very quickly without extreme lurches of incredibility. In the last 20% of the book the dots are joined and Hannah sees the horrifying picture and the story builds to an exciting climax. I look forward to the next instalment in the lives of these folks in the Lake District's answer to Midsummer. That, I think will be 'The Hanging Wood' Hanging Wood, The (Lake District Mystery) (Lake District Mysteries)
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on 17 February 2012
I was really looking forward to reading the fourth in this series and I only wish I'd warned everyone that I was starting it because once started it's absolutely impossible to put down. He really seems to have nailed it with this one. Admittedly I did feel the full force of irony when reading the opening chapter as it features the awful death of rare-book collection George Saffell burning in his boathouse library - I was reading it on my Kindle!

From the opening chapter you are totally gripped by the characters in this tale, which has its usual wonderful sense of place that feature in all the novels in this series. Edwards gives you charactes who are sometimes hard to like but nonetheless you can't help but feel for them in this book as the methods of their killing are truly horrible.

Once again Hannah and Daniel gently skirt around each other and much as you want to see them getting together you know Edwards isn't going to do it at the expense of the story or the characters' personality traits. I also loved the way that Daniel's sister Louise was given more of a role and even though the ghastly Miranda was mentioned Edwards avoided the cliche of bringing her back into the mix.

Keep this up Martin Edwards - we're going to want a lot more!
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VINE VOICEon 5 April 2010
I have awaited this fifth in the Lake District mystery series with glee and I was richly rewarded. From Page 1 I was totally hooked. Edwards has such a confident style and gives the reader a wholesome mix of Lake District scenery, complex plot, rounded and believeable characters, peppering this with dry wit and political comment. Hannah Scarlett dominated this story of three murders, but the ghost of Ben Kind, her mentor, is never far away. Trying to solve hideous crimes whilst struggling with what looks like a failing relationship with Marc Amos,simultaneously keeping her distance from Daniel, Ben's son, she juggles her dealings with colleagues, some good, Fern Larter, some annoying, Greg Wharf, at the same time acting the true professional in her chosen career. I simply can barely wait for the sixth in this series. Brilliant.
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on 10 June 2010
In The Serpent Pool, Martin Edwards combines a clever plot, the richly atmospheric setting of the Lake District, and complex characters to create a deeply satisfying rural mystery. Everyone is suspect, no one tells the truth, and nobody is entirely innocent - even Hannah Scarlett, his appealing heroine, has something to hide. The characters in this psychologically sophisticated novel are often ambiguous, sometimes ambivalent - yet always interesting - and the reader is treated fairly, so while Edwards may misdirect his readers shamelessly, he never withholds facts which are essential to solving the case. Edwards's love of word-puzzles is in evidence, as is his dry wit, but the humour is finely balanced against some of the darker moments to make this a hugely enjoyable read.
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on 19 February 2010
Martin Edwards' Lake District series has become a gem in thoughtful, contemporary crime novels. They check all the boxes for readers who enjoy a strong sense of place, with the past a location in its own right, and who seek interesting, clearly drawn characters as much as a gripping story.

The Serpent Pool sees the two main protagonists, cold case expert DCI Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind, more definite about their feelings for each other than in previous novels. The sexual tension between them has become the fulcrum for the series and it adds extra spice to the murder mystery.

The key murder in The Serpent Pool, which forms an attention-grabbing opener, proves not to be the last, while a six-year-old suspicious death which Hannah is working on has an overlapping cast of characters. These personalities are intriguing and offer fascinating glimpses into unusual lives. This is one aspect I especially enjoy about Martin Edwards' books; they're set very much in the now and they gently expose and question the unpleasant reality of modern day business and politics.

However, one of the novel's main protagonists is a historian and Edwards also delights in revealing the past. As with previous books, it is the past which Daniel Kind is researching which supplies the underlying theme. In The Serpent Pool, this is murder as a fine art, as expounded by Victorian essayist and opium addict Thomas de Quincey. Grotesque? Definitely. There are elements of Gothic horror at work in this fast-paced and rewarding book.
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