by Dolores Gordon-Smith
The message consisted of one neatly typewritten line: I am killing you slowly. You are going to die. The Chessman.
Isabelle Stanton and Sue Castradon always arranged the flowers in the village church on Fridays. But Sue was glad to escape the church that morning. She had rowed over breakfast with her husband Ned, who bitterly resented her association – however fleeting – with the handsome Simon Vardon. Sue didn’t think things could get worse – until she opened the cupboard…
When a mutilated corpse is discovered in the sleepy village of Croxton Ferriers, Jack Haldean finds an odd clue at the scene of the crime: a black marble chess knight with crystal eyes. Is murder just a game? It could be – to a killer who calls himself The Chessman.
A mutilated body is found in a cupboard in the local church, his identity and how someone has managed to gain access to the locked church are just two of the questions that need answering. Another one is how a lunatic is managing to live unknown in the cosy village of Croxton Ferriers.
As the body count rises and the self-styled ‘Chessman’ gets more daring, leaving notes and clues behind at each murder, it falls to amateur detective Jack Haldean and local Inspector Ashley to solve the mystery.
For all the high body count, this is not a blood and gore novel, more a cosy English murder/mystery in the style of Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers. It is set in the 1920s not long after the Great War. The War still has a hold over the country and many of the characters are deeply affected by it.
I loved the setting and the author brings the time and place to life brilliantly well, she gets inside the characters’ mindset of the time superbly.
The book is full of twists and turns and even though there are relatively few suspects, I was kept guessing to the end, due to the very cleverly constructed plot which had lots of twists and turns.
This is the 9th in the Jack Haldean series, but the first I have read and is easily read as a standalone. Although I will definitely be going back to look up the other books.
My thanks to the author for providing me with a copy.