Friday, 11 February 2011

The Hanging Wood ~ Martin Edwards

The Hanging Wood, Martin Edwards' fifth novel set in the Lake District featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind, was sent to me via NetGalley for pre-publication review.  And as I'm an avid follower of the series, I was more than grateful to have the opportunity to read it before anyone else in my equally enthusiastic library group can get their hands on it.  This probably makes me a very nasty person, but at least I am an honest one.  Which is more than can be said for most of the characters in this book - the honest bit, that is - a fair few of them come under the heading of very nasty indeed!

Hannah's cold case unit is brought in to examine the disappearance twenty years earlier of  fourteen year old Callum Hinds, when his sister, Orla, apparently commits suicide in the grain silo on their father's farm.  At the time it was assumed that Callum had been killed by their uncle, who was found hanging shortly afterwards.  However, no body has ever been found and conversations between Orla and Daniel shortly before her death raise the possibility that not only may Callum still be alive but also that there may be something suspicious about her own death.

But, (there is always a but in the best crime fiction) Orla and Callum are linked to a family grouping that is involved in bringing a great deal of wealth and business into the area.  Even better, the family is offering to sponsor a local police project.  Hannah is under strict instructions not to rock the boat with her investigation and to make sure that it is all wrapped up within the week.  Fortunately (well, maybe not fortunately, but you get the picture) there is another death, after which no one can hide from the fact that there was something very wrong with the conclusions reached two decades earlier and that there is a very live investigation needed now.

As usual, it is through the careful deliberations of Daniel, the son of Hannah's ex-boss, who brings his academic historians mind to bear on the evidence, that Hannah is handed the key that solves the mystery.  Working on a new book in the idyllic surroundings afforded by a residential library, Daniel has to hand the details of the family needed to shed light on what it was that Callum discovered twenty years earlier which meant he had to disappear.  When the past is clear, the present falls into place.

I really enjoy Edwards Lake District books.  While they may not have the same grittiness as those set in Liverpool, neither do they ever pretend that the Lake District is simply a chocolate box location.  The farm that provides much of the setting for this book is clearly a place where those who live struggle for survival; it is also a place where there is constant potential for danger, either accidental or premeditated.  In The Hanging Wood, this is set against the beauty of a residential library and yes, you read that correctly, a residential library.  Given that anyone reading this is likely to be a book fanatic can you imagine anything more idyllic: a library where you can go and stay and not have to go home in the evening.  I am still reeling with the joy of discovering that although the institution in Edwards' novel does not exist, it is based on a real place.  I promise you, I am going to stay there at some point, just as long, that is, as there are no cold cases that need solving in the vicinity.

If you enjoy a good crime thriller along the lines of those written by Peter Robinson and Reginald Hill then I'm pretty sure you will enjoy Edwards.  As usual, I'm going to say that I think you should go back to the beginning and read the series in order, but if you are already acquainted with these books then this one will not disappoint.


  1. I'm very jealous that you've had the chance to read Hanging Wood before anyone else. I love this series & I have a copy preordered from the Book Depository. Your review has made me even more impatient!

  2. This sounds good! I've marked it down as a potential NetGalley request, although I haven't read the other books in the series. I don't mind reading things out of order, though. I like the idea of a mystery set in the lake district -- it sounds interesting to read about. (I'm still waiting on the Maisie Dobbs request, by the way -- all other publishers have said yes very quickly, but that one is taking their time!)

  3. How have you got on within Liverpool based books, Lyn? I've never been able to get into them. Have you read them, and if so, are they worth having a second go?

    Dorothy, it's a very light read, definitely a good one for a rainy afternoon. I heard last week from a publisher I'd completely given up on five weeks after I'd made the request so I shouldn't despair over Maisie Dobbs yet.

  4. I've only read one of the Harry Devlin series (Waterloo Sunset) but I enjoyed it very much. They're out of print so I haven't come across any others. The relationship between Daniel & Hannah is one of the main attractions for me with the Lake District series.

  5. They are available here in the libraries, Lyn so perhaps I should try again. I know what you mean about the relationship between Daniel and Hannah. If there is one problem I have with this book it is that Edwards isn't taking it anywhere fast enough.