!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"> Review: Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons
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Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons
Skelton’s Guides – Book I
BY David Stafford

Allison and Busby
17 September 2020/ ASIN: B089Y925T2

Reviewed by Rachel Hyde 


Mary Dutton has suffered years of domestic abuse from her husband and when she is convicted of poisoning him, few are surprised or think that she could be innocent. But many women are sympathetic to her case, and there is also a possibility that she might not have even done it. So celebrated barrister Arthur Skelton, who is fresh from success dealing with another high profile case, is called on to find out the truth.

Set in the 1920s, this tortuous tale starts well and gets even better. It seems to tick all the boxes, painting a convincing picture of life in those days that bears all the hallmarks of a lot of meticulous research. Indeed, the author has the mystery Golden Age style down so well I could have believed the book had been written back then. Skelton is a happily married man with a family – a very refreshing change from the usual moody loner – and he has an amusing sidekick in the shape of his clerk, Edgar, as well as two rather unconventional cousins.

“Amusing” is a good term as pretty much everything about this rather remarkable and highly polished debut novel can be described with it. The case sounds rather grim, and it is certainly not dealt with irreverently, but despite some tragic elements there is a joy about the book that is seldom found in modern fiction. Many of the situations the pair gets into are very funny, acting as a counterfoil to the serious business of working to save a woman from the noose. There is a lot of story in here, as the sleuths have their work cut out and every page seems to uncover new evidence or contain something witty or, usually, both. Skelton is an interesting character, catapulted from obscurity into the limelight and coming from a very different background to his fellow barristers. His working class Yorkshire roots and slight disability set him apart, a situation he deals with using a combination of wit, charm and ability.

There are many very well drawn characters in here and I hope we get to meet some of them again in what deserves to be a very long series. I will certainly be looking out eagerly for the next one. Very highly recommended, and one of the best books I have read this year.

UK Reviewer: Rachel Hyde's work can be found in The Bead Magazine, Making Jewellery and www.craftsuprint.com/rachel-a-hyde/
Reviewed 2020
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