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Murder, books and Thomas De Quincey
on 18 January 2010
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.