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Monday 18 September 2017

‘Soot’ by Andrew Martin

Published by Corsair,
6 July 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-5243-5

In the city of York, a young gentleman, Fletcher Rigge, is rescued from Debtors prison by a gentleman who has offered to pay his debts if he will solve a murder.  We are in the Georgian world of 1799 in a very snowy York.  The novel is an epistolary one - the letters and depositions contain conversations and thoughts which move the story forwards very well.   The characters and their quirks of behaviour make for a lively tale.

Fletcher Rigge attempts to trace the people whose shades the murdered man had produced in the several days before his death.  The term shade describes what is more commonly referred to as a silhouette, black on white paper usually.  The victim was a talented man and he was stabbed with the scissors he used for his craft.

Rigge’s employer is the son of the artist, captain Robin Harvey, who lives in a tumbledown house with a manservant and a lady called Esther - a very irregular household.  The victim had his own house, run by his sister, Susan.  The layers of confusion, accidental or deliberate, proliferate as the book proceeds.  Who can be trusted?  Will Rigge identify the murderer or is the point of the story elsewhere?    In such a cleverly written book you don't know whose story to trust.  

The background of the debtors’ prison in wintery York is perfectly delineated as is the process of doing a shade or silhouette. 
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer

Andrew Martin grew up in Yorkshire. After qualifying as a barrister, he won The Spectator Young Writer of the Year Award, 1988. Since, he has written for The Guardian, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, the Independent and Granta, among many other publications. His columns have appeared in the Independent on Sunday and the New Statesman. His Jim Stringer novels – railway thrillers – have been published by Faber and Faber since 2002.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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