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The Hanging Wood
on 27 August 2011
The Hanging Wood is Martin Edwards's 5th Lake District Mystery. I've enjoyed all of them and this is no exception. Historian Daniel Kind is carrying out research at St Herbert's Residential Library where Orla Payne works. She is obsessed by the disappearance of her brother Callum, twenty years earlier when he was a teenager and she was a child of seven. When her uncle was found dead in Hanging Wood, the police assumed he had committed suicide after killing Callum, even though his body was never found. Daniel encourages Orla to speak to DCI Hannah Scarlet, who heads the Cold Case Review Team at Cumbria Constabulary about her brother's disappearance. However, a drunken Orla fails to convince Hannah to reopen the case and it is only after Orla's death that the police decide to review Callum's disappearance. As Hannah tries to discover what happened to Callum, she begins to think their deaths are connected and were not accidental or suicide.
I really enjoyed this book, with its interesting characters and atmospheric Lake District setting. The Hanging Wood itself with its towering wych elms, rowan, ash and oak trees, and old paths obscured by grass, heather and brambles is not a pleasant place.
The case is intriguing and cleverly constructed. I thought I'd worked it out and I did, but only after several red herrings threw me off track for a while. I like the mix of cold and new cases, the sense of history and the characterisation - a most satisfying read.
I also like the sub-plot of Hannah and Daniel's relationship. Both of them are now living on their own, but Marc is still trying to patch things up with Hannah and Hannah is just not sure. I think for this strand of the novels it really does help to read the books in sequence.