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Monday, 21 November 2016

‘Secrets in the Stones’ by Tessa Harris

Published by Constable,
11 August 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-1826-4

Secrets in the Stones opens with a brief explanation of events occurring in India in 1775. The action then switches to 1784 in Oxfordshire, England, where Dr Thomas Silkstone is wounded in a duel, to the great distress of Lady Lydia Farrell, the lady whom Silkstone loves and who, as she fears he is dying, realises that she loves him in return. Lydia’s hesitation is forgiveable as she has been unfortunate regarding the past men in her life. Her late husband was a ruthless man with low morals and Sir Montagu Malthus, with whom she resides at Boughton Hall has convinced her that she is his illegitimate child. Lydia’s only constant source of happiness has been her seven-year-old son, Richard. Sir Montagu is a vicious, cruel man who had Lydia committed to Bedlam, from which she has only just been released. He is hated by the local community because he is determined to enclose the common land and rob them of their livelihoods.

When Lydia leaves Thomas at a local inn he is out of immediate danger but very weak. Returning to Boughton Hall she discovers Sir Montagu brutally murdered in his study and, for a while she is suspected of the crime. To make matters even worse, a few days later Lydia is riding by her late husband’s grave and finds that it has been desecrated. The grave has been opened and her husband’s finger, which wore a large diamond he acquired in India, has been cut off and the diamond stolen.

Thomas rises from his sickbed to investigate the murder and protect Lydia. His investigation takes him to London and he soon finds that he is following a trail of ferocious murders which seem to be linked to the mysterious Indian diamond. Gradually Thomas unravels a tale of past greed and treachery and a campaign of revenge that threatens the life of the woman that he loves.

Secrets in the Stones has a superb historical background with deft touches that bring the period to life. The sympathetic characters are very likeable and the villains are truly evil and depraved. This is the sixth book in the Doctor Thomas Silkstone series and, in my opinion it is not the best place to start. I felt that I would have been able to understand the subtleties of the plot and the character motivation more fully if I had read the preceding books and I would recommend readers to start earlier in the series. That said, Secrets in the Stones has an intriguing and well-imagined plot, with likeable protagonists and rich period detail, and it is a very enjoyable read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Tessa Harris After studying History at Oxford University, Tessa began her journalistic career on a newspaper in her home town of Louth, in Lincolnshire. As a journalist she contributed to several national publications such as The Times and The Telegraph. She also acted as a literary publicist for the English TV presenter and novelist Pam Rhodes. In 2005 she was made editor of Berkshire Life magazine.

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 latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.

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