The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge
by Martin Edwards
Poisoned Pen Press, August 2023, $16.99 trade paperback
In 1606 Yorkshire, England, a man vanishes from a locked room. More than 300 years later, it happens again!
In author Martin Edwards third Rachel Savernake Golden Age mystery, Fleet Street journalist Nell Fagan heads out to the dank and grim English countryside, hoping to regain her reputation as a reporter by reporting on a series of deaths at a local sanatorium. While there, Nell stays at the infamous lodge where the mysterious disappearances occurred, one in 1606 and the second 300 years later.
The reporter tries to interest Rachel Savernake in helping her search for the truth, but Rachel is reluctant—Nell has lied to her before. Nell continues looking into things on her own, but when a possible attempt is made on her life, she tries again to get Rachel's help. But then, Nell disappears.
Now fully engaged in finding out what Nell was investigating and how it might've led to her disappearance, Rachel and her chosen compatriots find themselves in Yorkshire—and with no shortage of potential suspects for the suspicious sanatorium deaths and Nell's disappearance.
Is it the reclusive neighbor that holds himself apart from the rest of the townsfolk? The brutish parish rector who displays no mercy or compassion towards anyone, including his increasingly skittish and unstable wife? What secrets does the family that runs the sanatorium hold? Is the friendly town doctor somehow involved in all the goings-on? What's the story with the old and decidedly unfriendly woman staying at the local hotel?
Rachel, her journalist friend Jacob Flint, and her other allies find themselves tested to find out the truth of all matters. Especially as they attempt to stay one step ahead of a cunning killer who will stop at nothing to keep secrets from coming to light.
Author Martin Edwards does a phenomenal job of making the reader feel as if they are in the English countryside of the 1930s. The densely written descriptions of the various locations fuel the imagination, giving readers the sense of time and place, from the dark and foreboding moors to the interactions of the characters from various stations of the English class system. And just when you think you know where things are going, he skillfully plays with those expectations, yet keeps you glued to the page to see where the story is going next.
The way Edwards draws you into the plot with the reporter Nell Fagan before fully involving Rachel Savernake is a nice touch. As for Savernake herself, she's an intriguing figure to say the least. There's a bit of a Holmesian touch to her observations and attitudes, but the writer does a great job of moving Rachel beyond a simple homage to The Great Detective and making her come to life as a fully realized character in her own right. I also greatly enjoyed the character of Jacob Flint who is unwillingly drawn into the story through his friendships with both Nell and Rachel. Flint has his own subplot involving a fake medium, but between that and his assistance to Rachel, the character comes to acquit himself quite nicely.
With murder, disappearances, and any number of hidden motives, betrayals, and deadly secrets, The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge is sure to galvanize mystery readers into becoming fans of Rachel Savernake and set about clamoring for more of her adventures.