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Monday 22 July 2019

‘In Two Minds’ by Alis Hawkins

Published by The Dome Press,
30 May 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-91253418-0 (PB)

A new series with a protagonist who is a little different is always something of a find – so imagine my delight when I found a series with two!

In Two Minds is the second book featuring 19th century Teifi Valley coroner – or more accurately coroner-to-be – Harry Probert-Lloyd and his sparky officer (also to be) John Davies. When the story opens Harry is only acting coroner, and John a solicitor's clerk, but they both have ambitions. Encroaching blindness has forced Harry to abandon a promising London career as a barrister, but his keen mind is disinclined to settle for the leisurely life of a country gentleman in rural Wales; John has pulled himself up by the proverbial bootstraps from humble beginnings as a servant, and dreams of a future as a solicitor in his own right, rather than a mere clerk.

Harry already has a reputation for ferreting out the truth when other investigators are willing to settle for the obvious and expedient. When a mutilated body is found on a remote beach and the local coroner is indisposed, he willingly accepts the job of uncovering what happened and co-opts John as his assistant, already making himself unpopular in several quarters.

He finds he is fighting a battle on several fronts. The magistrates want the mystery solved at minimal cost. The police quickly find a suspect and are reluctant to look any further. The working-class witnesses are unwilling to talk to a member of the crachach, as the local gentry are known. And the directors of an emigration scheme with which the dead man was involved are disinclined to do anything that threatens their financial interests.

And as if that wasn't enough... But no; I've given away enough of the plot. Suffice to say it gets even more complicated.

Harry and John are two of the most fascinating protagonists I've encountered in a while, and the other characters leap off the page as well. To name just a few, there's Benton Reckitt the anatomist who trades brilliance for social skills; Mrs Parry the feisty innkeeper; Inspector Bellis the clodhopping policeman; Harry's outspoken father; and not forgetting Lydia Howell, a young lady who knows her own mind. 

It's all set against the kind of beautiful west Wales backdrop which probably hasn't changed much in a century and a half. It's dotted with bleak beaches, mistrustful villages, small towns and estates like Glanteifi, Harry's home.  I look forward to my next visit there, in the company of the Teifi Valley coroner and his assistant.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Alis Hawkins was born in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire/Monmouthshire border. She grew up on a dairy farm near Newcastle Emlyn – a small town on the Cardiganshire/Carmarthenshire border. She attended the local, bilingual village primary school, Cardigan County Comprehensive, and later Corpus Christi College, Oxford and studied English Language and Literature. Alis is a Welsh speaker and now lives in the Forest of Dean.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for featuring In Two Minds. I'm so glad you liked it, Lynne!