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Serpent Pool, The Hardcover – 8 Feb 2010
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'With evocative descriptions of everything from landscape to cocktail parties, expert plotting, an engaging protagonist and strongly delineated characters, 'The Serpent Pool' is old-fashioned, well-made crime fiction at its best, and the denouement will have you choking on your Kendal mint cake.' LAURA WILSON, THE GUARDIAN --The Guardian
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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.
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.
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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I am looking forward to now reading the second in the series