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Last week I went to the local Car Boot sale, and what an Aladdin's cave it was. They sold everything including to my delight lots of good quality books. In the end I bought this book for just 30p. I liked the sound of it from the title but had never read any work from this author, but I thought at that price I couldn't really go wrong.
About the author:
Sally Spencer to my surprise is a phenomenal and quite successful writer. So far she has written 20 novels in the Inspector Woodend range, three in the Marston trilogy, two in the London Books and three other separate novels. If that was not enough she also writes under the pseudonym of Alan Rustage where she has written another six books in the Inspector Blackstone series.
Synopsis of the book:
It is 1964 in the small isolated village in Lancashire called Hallerton. It is a small and extremely close knit community who dislike and distrust all outsiders. It is a place controlled by the head of the community 'the Witch Maker'. But one morning he is found dead at the stake where the witch was burnt.
DCI Woodend and his glamorous assistant Monika Paniatowski must unravel 350 years of history to discover the truth. They must do this within the next three days as that is when the next witch burning is due to happen. He has already been told by his boss that this event cannot be cancelled at any cost.
As the villagers every 20 years celebrate the burning of the supposed witch Meg Ramsden at the stake in front of them. What DCI Woodend soon discovers is that several of the wives in Hallerton in the past 20 years have committed suicide. Is this related to the other murder? And is it just a coincidence that murder has happened when the Fun Fair is back again after a twenty year absence.
My thoughts on the book:
I was very impressed by all aspects of this book. Although it was basically set in the 1960's I had no problems understanding or getting into the swing of the novel. And despite being set in Lancashire the characters all spoke in a way it was easy to follow all their conversations.
The first thing that grabbed me about this book was its striking title. I thought when I saw it it was not only a great title but one that sounded very interesting. So I read the brief but concise introduction in the front cover of the book and decided it was the kind of crime investigation I would enjoy.
The book begins with a prologue. It takes you back to Hallerton in March 1604, on the eve of the burning of Meg Ramsden. This provided an interesting insight into why the village celebrated this event every twenty years since and was an excellent introduction to the novel.
This was a really well told story from the author from start to finish. I immediately got into it as it was well written throughout in a fascinating tale. I found myself completely taken by it and such was the quality of the work I felt I was riding with DCI Woodend throughout the investigation.
The story followed the DCI's investigation. It brought up an array of information that needed to ne acted upon and brought some unexpected discoveries as the investigation continued on. I enjoyed the way the Police and Gypsies were treated by the residents of the village and the way they did their best to be as un-cooperative as possible with them.
I must admit I did suss out the guilty parties some time before the end of the novel. But did not have any idea which direction or indeed what was going to happen next. I could see other possibilities of what could happen and many of the characters could it seem to be responsible for the murder.
A further feature I liked was the epilogue. It is always a bare bug to me that books either have no epilogue or one that is only a page long. This one I am pleased to say was a decent size and provided a reasonable update on all the major characters. Indeed it also had a twist in it, which made me wonder what would happen further down the line to one of the characters.
The book was full of mystery and suspense, this built up throughout the novel. This was done by bringing in new characters, secrets and also other revelations into the story. These the DCI needed to work through and understand before he could attempt to solve the mystery.
I thought Spencer's characters were excellent. I liked DCI Woodend's no nonsense approach to detecting crime. I'm not sure if some of his methods would be legitimate today but I did enjoy them. He is the sort of man who gets results using common sense, intelligent questioning and using the skills of the people within his team.
The support characters were rich in both diversity and personality. They were all described well and I particularly liked the way they interacted with each other. The Gypsies I thought alone could have had an expanded role as there relationships with one another and the secrets they hid for others were excellently written.
These support characters were probably my favourite part of the book. As I could understand and relate to the way they acted given their situations. There was so much they could tell but they only did this as a last possible resort.
I struggled a little with the evidence against the guilty parties. As there seemed little concrete evidence to support it, but it was explained in a simple and logical way.
It was for me an easy novel to read. Once I had picked it up I wanted to know the truth and because of the quality of the work I found it very hard to put down. My burnt Dinner was a casualty of this!!
The length of the book was comparatively short. That said it had come to its logical end. Maybe it could have been expanded a little while the DCI got proof and further evidence against the guilty parties. This indeed could have allowed for some of the support characters roles to be expanded.
The chapters themselves were very short. With a fresh one every six or so pages, this broke up the scenes well and I didn't find it too annoying or notice it much after a while.
This was from my perspective an excellent crime novel. I enjoyed the story and found it to be well written, with a diverse range of interesting characters. I would recommend this novel to all crime fiction fans, as I will certainly be trying another one from this novelist.
Publisher: Severn House
About the author: www.sallyspencer.com
Thanks for reading my review.
@CPTDANIELS December 2008
This review is also written in Ciao.
Very good read, Recommended +