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Saturday, 6 February 2016

‘The Dungeon House’ by Martin Edwards

Published by Allison & Busby,
17 September 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-1980-8

The story opens twenty years before the main action in the book. Malcolm Whiteley and his wife Lysette are preparing to host their annual barbecue at their luxurious home, The Dungeon House, in Cumbria. However, all is far from well with Malcolm and Lysette's marriage and with his life.  Malcolm has made a disastrous business error that may well result in him losing much of the wealth that is part of his identity. He has become an alcoholic and nurses a paranoid suspicion that Lysette is unfaithful to him. He is obsessed with discovering the identity of her lover and accuses her of having sex with a selection of unlikely men: his brother, Ted, who is terminally ill; Lysette's art teacher, the handsome Scott Durham; Malcolm's accountant, Gray Elstone; Ben Kind, Lysette's best friend's partner; or his gardener, Robbie Dean. Other people have their problems too: Dean had once been a promising football star until he was injured in a car accident. He had been driving and his girlfriend, seated in the front passenger seat, was killed. The couple in the back seat were uninjured but only Philip Whiteley, Malcolm's nephew, came out of the experience unscathed. Philip's girlfriend, Joanna Footit, had suffered from nervous troubles ever since the crash. Joanna has begun to put her life together: she has a job working for Grey Elstone and she hopes to win Philip back, even though she is aware that her best friend, Amber Whiteley, Malcolm and Lysette's sixteen-year-old daughter, is determined to start a relationship with Philip. Malcolm makes a drunken fool of himself at the barbecue and later that night he shoots himself and his wife and is presumed to have thrown or chased his daughter over the cliff so that she fell to her death.

Twenty years later, DCI Hannah Scarlett is the head of the local Cold Case Team. Hannah was a friend of detective Ben Kind, who died soon after his retirement, and she knows from him that he thought the inestigation into the deaths at the Dungeon House had been carelessly conducted. However, the case that Hannah's team is reviewing is not that of the Dungeon House but the disappearance of Grey Elstone's daughter, Lily, three years previously.

At the same time, a different CID team are investigating a second disappearance, that of Philip Whiteley's daughter, Shona, who has been missing a few days. There are similarities between the two cases: both men are single parents and both were connected to the Dungeon House tragedy, but there is no evidence that the same person has taken both of the girls.

Joanna Footit's mental health collapsed again after the deaths at the Dungeon House and she has led an empty and troubled life ever since. When Joanna sees Philip on the television, appealing for his daughter's safe return, she decides to return to Cumbria and see Philip and catch up with old acquaintances. Joanna's return to her childhood home empowers her but it results in the opening of old wounds and dangerous memories. In the meantime Hannah Scarlett and her team struggle to discover the truth about Lily's disappearance and untangle the web of deception, malice and evil before it claims more victims.

The Dungeon House
is the seventh book featuring Hannah Scarlett. It is a complex and compelling book, with beautifully drawn characters and a wonderful sense of place. Hannah and her team are all likeable people with their own foibles and flaws. This is a superbly plotted and engrossing mystery, a real page-turner.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Martin Edwards was born 7 July 1955 at Knutsford, Cheshire and educated in Northwich and at Balliol College, Oxford University, taking a first class honours degree in law. He trained as a solicitor in Leeds and moved to Liverpool on qualifying in 1980. He published his first legal article at the age of 25 and his first book, about legal aspects of buying a business computer at 27, before spending just over 30 years as a partner of a law firm, where he is now a consultant. He is married to Helena with two children (Jonathan and Catherine) and lives in Lymm. A member of the Murder Squad a collective of crime writers, Martin is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association’s Committee. In 2007 he was appointed the Archivist of the Crime Writers Association and in 2011 he was appointed the Archivist of the Detection Club. For more information visit:

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.



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