Recent Events

Friday 6 November 2015

‘The Chessman’ by Dolores Gordon-Smith

Published by Severn House,
1 December 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8541-8

The Sussex village of Croxton Ferriers has always been a sleepy place where nothing exciting occurs, but suddenly it has become a hotbed of crime. The violence starts when Sir Matthew and Lady Vardon are attacked on their own terrace and Lady Vardon's diamonds are stolen. Shortly after this, Sir Matthew has a stroke and subsequently dies. Soon after Sir Matthew's death, his chauffeur, Ryle provokes Edward Castradon, a local solicitor, and there is a brawl in the centre of the village. Worse is still to come. Isabelle Stanton and Sue Castradon turned up at the church to arrange the flowers and discover a corpse, mutilated beyond recognition, in one of the church cupboards.

Jack Haldean is Isabelle's cousin and a friend of the local senior police officer, Superintendent Ashley. Jack is a successful writer of detective fiction and a respected amateur sleuth. Ashley invites Jack to join the investigation and it is Jack's sharp eyes that notice a chess piece in the cupboard. 'It was a black knight, heavy for its size, carved out of marble.'

Soon the black chess pieces become horribly familiar, accompanied by sinister notes from a killer who signs himself, 'The Chessman.' Sir Matthew's heir, Thomas Vardon, returns from America to set his inheritance in order, and it becomes clear that members of the Vardon family are in peril from this unidentified madman. Edward Castradon is Ashley's main suspect: he has an exceptionally bad temper and, having been scarred in the war, he is unable to believe that his beautiful wife still loves him, which makes him jealous of any man who admires Sue. Also, there there has been long-term bad feeling between Castradon and the murder victims. However there is insufficient evidence to arrest Castradon and the death toll continues to rise.

The Chessman is the ninth book featuring Jack Haldean and the series goes from strength to strength. This book has a genuine Golden Age feel to it: a complex plot, with skilfully placed clues, several cunning red herrings and a fine range of lively characters, including a handsome, charming and thoroughly likeable hero. As well as an intriguing murder mystery, The Chessman also has a more serious undertone, with the reminder that the Great War may have ended in 1918, but, for many men and their loved ones, the mental and physical suffering continued for long afterwards.

Although part of a series, this book stands alone, as do all of the Jack Haldean books. It is a exceptionally good read and one which I would wholeheartedly recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Dolores Gordon-Smith lives in a small town near Manchester with her husband, five children, three cats and two dogs. She has always been fascinated by the Twenties. The four years of the First World War had ripped away the old securities and expectations and, when it was over, things were never the same again. Everything changed, from politics to fashions. Skirts rose to the knee and women cropped, bobbed or shingled their hair. Music took a new direction; listen to the clarinet solo of Rhapsody in Blue, the urbane, polished sophistication of Cole Porter and Noel Coward, the wistful longing of Jerome Kern and the “crazy rhythm” of Jazz.  Her three favourite writer in popular fiction are Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse and Dorothy L. They reflect the classic detective story, where an ordered world is plunged into chaos and then re-invented, The perfect vehicle to celebrate the energy of this brave new world.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her second book About the Children was published in May 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment