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A Dark Anatomy
A Cragg and Fidelis Mystery – Book I
Robin Blake

Constable (Constable and Robinson)
8 January 2015 / ISBN 9781472115935
Mystery / British / Historical

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


Lancashire 1740: Dolores Brockletower, the exotic and reclusive wife to the squire has been found dead in the woods. It was her habit to go riding every morning early, but this morning somebody must have assailed her and cut her throat. It is the duty of the county Coroner Titus Cragg to investigate the case, along with his friend Dr Luke Fidelis, and they find plenty of suspects. Nobody liked the dead woman or her husband “Black Ram,” and soon rumors of witchcraft arise to make this a perplexing, and surprising, case.

I am always pleased to discover a new author, and this one has doubly satisfied me by choosing a time and place not often written about. This is the Enlightenment, but at a time when it has not penetrated into the wilder parts of Britain, and there is a vast gulf between the protagonist’s keenness for new knowledge and interest in science and that of the superstitious country folk. The story is told in the coroner’s own words, the voice of a down-to-earth 18th century lawyer who grounds the tale nicely, making a strong contrast to the bizarre events that unfold. Among the characters is a reclusive old doctor keen on dissection, a worldly archbishop, drunken vicar, an old gyspy with a giant idiot son and… but no plot spoilers. Apart from the story itself the other treat about this book is the meticulous description of life at this time, the fascinating daily doings of the characters in the story. We hear of cheese-making at the hall, an inquest in a public house, how the coroner spends his time and people’s views of the world, whether educated or not. In short it is a book of contrasts, at a time when great changes were afoot, as well as a puzzle revealing dark secrets in a seemingly ordinary place. I look forward to reading more about Cragg and Fidelis.

Reviewed 2015