The Serpent Pool
Poisoned Pen, Feb 2010, $24.95
Over six years ago in the Lake District, Emily Friend drowned in the Serpent Pool. Her grieving mother asked a simple question of law enforcement back then: how does a person drown in water that is less than eighteen inches? The police could not find a reasonable answer to her query.
With Emily’s mom dying, DCI Hannah Scarlett of the Cumbria Constabulary Cold Cases decides to officially reopen that case in order to provide closure to the grief stricken dying woman. DS Greg Wharf is assigned to her; he comes with a notorious reputation, but seems competent. Meanwhile George Saffell dies in a blaze that also destroys his valuable book collection. Soon afterward Stuart Wagg is found dead in a well. Hannah visits Louise Kind, sister to the DCI’s former lover historian Daniel Kind as the woman lived with Wagg. The only ties between Emily, Bethany, George, and Stuart are Hannah’s current lover, bookseller Marc Amos who seems more interested in his new hire Cassie Weston than in the DCI, and Thomas De Quincey who died in 1859.
The latest Lake District cold case police procedural (see The Cipher Garden and The Coffin Trail) is a terrific intelligent whodunit as each step taken by Hannah and George leads to a deeper convolution to their original mystery. The enjoyable story line also pays homage to De Quincey (see Confessions of an Opium-Eater; and On Murder, Considered As One of the Fine Arts). Although the climax is over the top of Scafell Pike, fans will relish this entertaining English cozy.