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Monday 15 March 2021

‘Legacy of Death’ by Judith Cutler

Published by Severn House,
31st December 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8939-3 (HB)

In Victorian times, senior staff who work in a noble stately home and administer a large estate are used to shouldering responsibility, but Matthew Rowsley and his wife, Harriet, have greater commitments than most. They are the land agent and housekeeper for Lord Croft whose mental health is failing, so that he has been confined in a specially adapted wing of the great house. His lordship and his dying mother are cared for by specially trained servants, under the supervision of the formidable Nurse Pegg. Matthew and Harriet are two of a group of trustees who are responsible for the smooth running of Thorncroft House, and one of the priorities for the trustees is to build new cottages for the workers who are currently living in a squalor that is damaging their health.

The foundations for the new houses are already being dug when Harriet is summoned to inspect some newly uncovered foundations of a Roman villa. Matthew is away for the day and Harriet has to make the decision to suspend the building work; she also summons an old friend, Sir Francis Palmer, an expert on Roman antiquities to investigate their find. When Harriet, Matthew and Sir Francis go to inspect the foundations, they discover the butler, Samuel Bowman, a long-term and loyal servant, lying severely injured in one of the trenches and it is obvious that he has been attacked.

While the household is still horrified by Samuel’s injury, they are further shaken by the unexpected arrival of Julius Trescothick, Lord Croft’s long-lost cousin and heir from Australia. The credentials of the heir have been investigated by the solicitor who is chairman of the trustees and he believes that they are valid, however Trescothick’s manner is a combination of arrogance and ignorance, which makes it hard to believe that he is the true heir. With Samuel lying unconscious and not expected to recover, Harriet and Matthew struggle to cope with Trescothick’s unreasonable demands, as well as ensuring that the construction of the workers’ houses is relocated so that it can continue without delay. Other strange happenings threaten to disrupt the household and another servant is attacked. Harriet is determined to discover the truth behind the untoward events and restore Thorncroft House to tranquillity, but she does not foresee that her investigation will place her life in extreme peril.

Legacy of Death is the second book in the series featuring Matthew and Harriet Rowsley and, while complete in itself, the start of the book relates to occurrences in the first book, The Wages of Sin. In Legacy of Death, the plot is intriguing and well-constructed, and the historical detail is excellent; the characters are engaging, well-rounded and nuanced. It is a very enjoyable book, which I recommend to any reader who enjoys historical mysteries with depth and complexity.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Judith Cutler was born in the Black Country, just outside Birmingham, later moving to the Birmingham suburb of Harborne. Judith started writing while she was at the then Oldbury Grammar School, winning the Critical Quarterly Short Story prize with the second story she wrote. She subsequently read English at university. It was an attack of chickenpox caught from her son that kick-started her writing career. One way of dealing with the itch was to hold a pencil in one hand, a block of paper in the other - and so she wrote her first novel. This eventually appeared in a much-revised version as Coming Alive, published by Severn House. Judith has seven series. The first two featured amateur sleuth Sophie Rivers (10 books) and Detective Sergeant Kate Power (6 Books). Then came Josie Wells, a middle-aged woman with a quick tongue, and a love of good food, there are two books, The Food Detective and The Chinese Takeout. The Lina Townsend books are set in the world of antiques and there are seven books in this series. There are three books featuring Tobias Campion set in the Regency period, and her series featuring Chief Superintendent Fran Harman (6 books), and Jodie Welsh, Rector’s wife and amateur sleuth. Her more recently a series feature a head teacher Jane Cowan (3 books). Judith has also written three standalone’s Staging Death, Scar Tissue, and Death In Elysium. Her new series is set in Victorian times featuring Matthew Rowsley. Legacy of Death was published on 31st December 2020.

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
This Game of Ghosts
click on the title.  

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