It’s a little awkward: the first time Emma Holmes is at odds with her husband, Superintendent Edgar Stephens, as his team tries to discover who fed Bert rat poison. Police and PIs question many of the same people for information, but sometimes their methods yield different results. What does come to light is that there are plenty of people with potential grudges against the old man, and that there was a mystery caller to the house in the hours before Bert died.
And then there is another murder: a different MO, but with certain common aspects, with the result that Emma and WDC Meg Connolly head to Liverpool to interview a couple with a historical bearing on the cases, and from there, unexpectedly to Whitby, where Bert and Verity’s middle son Seth and Max Mephisto are filming a Dracula movie.
Bert’s reputation as a philanderer swells the list of those with grievances to the families of used and discarded women, some of whose lives he ruined without qualm. Nor do all of his own family hold him in high esteem. But the second victim was a favourite with almost everyone: what could the motive be?
Griffiths certainly has the reader second-guessing themselves as they settle on a perpetrator, only to be pointed elsewhere as further facts come to light. There are a number of red herrings and plenty of misdirection, from both the characters and the author. At one stage Emma reminds herself that she is dealing with “Actors and acting. Costume and disguise.”
Once again, Griffiths uses multiple narrators to convey different parts of the story as well as to give different perspectives on events. The story plays out over about six weeks against a background of The Moors Murders. The mid-1960’s era ensures the absence of mobile phones, internet, DNA and even many personal vehicles; thus the detective work relies on heavily on legwork, and intelligent deduction.
Fans will be pleased to have another peek into the lives of this particular cast as the characters grow and develop and face the challenges of the changing world that was the nineteen-sixties. Despite the still-rampant sexual discrimination to which they are subject, Emma, Sam, Meg and Ruby are coming into their own, quietly taking charge of their lives and making their own decisions. This is addictive historical crime fiction. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.