Blackstone Fell (2022) by Martin Edwards

The gatehouse to Blackstone Tower has a dark history. Twice, first in 1606 and then 300 years later, a man walked into the gatehouse and disappeared from the face of the earth.

1930, and journalist Nell Fagan is determined to find the truth about the mysterious goings-on near Blackstone Fell – not just the gatehouse but also Blackstone Sanatorium, a site of many recent deaths. Realising that she might well need some help, she sets out to enlist the aid of Rachel Savernake, someone who has no particularly liking of Nell.

As Jacob Flint becomes entangled in Nell’s schemes, he finds himself attempting to expose a presumably-fradulent medium at a séance in London. But soon, all of the parties will find themselves in the wilds of Blackstone Fell – along with someone who has killed several times without detection…

The third of Martin Edwards’ Rachel Savernake series, an absorbing series that revels in homaging the Golden Age of detective fiction while never being content to simply mimic it. It can’t be easy to write something that is drawing so clearly on the source material while still pushing forward with new ideas and feeling incredibly fresh.

It’s worth bearing that in mind as the opening half feels less focussed than traditional detective stories, given that in effect we have three sleuths – Rachel, Jacob and Nell – doing different things in different locations. It makes one’s head spin watching Martin keeping all of the plot elements spinning at the same time, but needless to say, things dovetail as the plot progresses.

One of the strengths of this book is the finale. I can tell you now, if you think that you’ve solved this, you haven’t. Simple as that. Despite the clue-finder in the back (it’s more like a hint-finder, to be fair) I seriously doubt that any armchair sleuth will solve this, despite the author playing perfectly fairly with the reader.

There’s far more to it than just that, though, with the intriguing central characters – I’m particularly fond of Martha – vivid descriptions of the Yorkshire wilds and a plot that never stands still while never meandering from what you need to see. A must read.

Blackstone Fell is out now (well, first thing tomorrow) in hardback and ebook. Many thanks to the publishers for the e-review via Netgalley,

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