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Sunday 11 August 2019

‘The Dower House Mystery’ by Alanna Knight

Published by Allison & Busby,
18 April 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-2495-6 (HB)

The year is 1907 and Detective Inspector Faro has retired from the police and is enjoying life with his long-term lover but new wife, Imogen. The couple have moved from Dublin to live in Edinburgh. Previously Imogen had been outlawed from Britain because of her part in acts of Irish rebellion, but she has been granted a pardon by Edward VII. Imogen is a writer whose research has led her to explore many parts of the world. She is looking forward to visiting York in order to give a lecture. It is a city that fascinates her, and she is eager to share seeing it with Faro. Unfortunately, a minor accident means that Faro is unable to travel, and Imogen has to go to York alone.

The talk goes well and Theo and Belle Hardy, who helped to organise the event, invite Imogen to their beautiful home, the Dower House, an atmospheric and historically rich house situated on the site of a Roman palace. Imogen is surprised when Theo and Belle tell her that they are about to go away on an archaeological expedition and ask if she and her husband would spend a holiday living at the Dower House in order to look after it. Imogen knows that Faro dislikes spending more than a few days in a hotel and accepts this remarkably generous offer.

The next day, after exploring York, Imogen goes into a flower shop to buy a gift to thank Belle. She recognises the ring worn by the young woman serving in the shop and, to her delight, discovers that she has found a cousin that she has not met since childhood, Kathleen Crowe. Imogen knows little about Kathleen, except that she was also brought up by relations who were closely involved in the campaign for Irish independence and that she was widowed tragically young, when her husband’s ship was lost at sea. Imogen and Kathleen agree to meet at a nearby cafe later but when Imogen returns the cafe is shutting up for the night and there is no sign of Kathleen. Imogen is disappointed when Kathleen doesn’t turn up but comforts herself with the certainty that they can meet when she and Faro return to spend a holiday in York.

When Imogen returns to York it is again without Faro, who has to attend a funeral. She goes to the flower shop to find Kathleen and is horrified when the young shop assistant disclaims all knowledge of Kathleen and says that she has not worked at the flower shop in all the time the assistant has been there. Imogen is certain that something is very wrong and is desperate to find her cousin and ensure that she is safe. When Faro arrives he attempts to help, but the police can do little to hunt for an adult when there is no sign of foul play. Although she is comfortable at the Dower House, there are things that make Imogen feel wary, especially the dour housekeeper who tries to avoid contact with her.

In the meantime, Faro’s reputation as a detective means that the York police are eager to involve him in their investigations. His intervention results in a murderer being apprehended and, when he and Imogen are invited to visit Amsterdam, Faro is entrusted with a secret mission that proves far more hazardous than he anticipated. As the mysteries surrounding the Dower House and the disappearance of Kathleen Crowe become more entangled, life becomes dangerous for Faro and Imogen.

The Dower House Mystery is the latest book in the long series featuring Inspector Faro. It is a gently paced book filled with fascinating descriptions of both scenery and history. The complex relationship between Faro and Imogen is particularly interesting, and although explanations of their back stories are extensive, I would recommend readers who are new to the Faro books to read the earlier books in the series. 

An enjoyable read for those who like softly paced mysteries full of historical information and atmosphere.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Alanna Knight is one of the most popular authors in UK libraries. Named as one of The Times’ “100 Masters of Crime”, she is a leading crime writer with three historical crime series: the Victorian detective Inspector Jeremy Faro, lady investigator Rose McQuinn, and time-traveller Tam Eildor. She has published more than 70 books, works which include romance, thrillers, historical novels and non-fiction. Alanna is an authority on Robert Louis Stevenson and she has written true crime, 'how to write' guides and biographies.  Hon President of Edinburgh Writers' Club, Honorary President and founder member of Scottish Association of Writers, member of Society of Authors and Crime Writers' Association, and Mystery People.  She appears regularly at Edinburgh International Book Festival and many other literary events. 

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 the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below. To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

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