Monday 27 October 2014

The Droitwich Deceivers by Kerry Tombs

Kerry Tombs writes refreshingly old-fashioned mystery novels set in the late Victorian era featuring no-nonsense, smart thinking Detective Inspector Ravenscroft and his side-kick Constable Crabbe. Samuel Ravenscroft is married to Lucy, who being warm-hearted and impulsive is quite willing to get involved in a bit of sleuthing as well.
    In this case Ravenscroft is called out to Hill Court, the stately home of Sir Charles Chilton, a salt baron whose nine-year-old daughter has been snatched while wandering through the nearby churchyard. Ravenscroft is at a loss to understand why Sir Charles didn't get the local police onto things straight away, as you usually do with missing persons cases, and there is nothing to suggest a kidnapping plot that would lead to a ransom demand.
    But Chilton is an unpleasant bully of a man, used to getting his own way, his wife banished to her room due to her fragile mental state. Ravenscroft is under orders not to talk to her and he can't help feeling there's something odd going on and Lady Chilton may know something useful. And why would the governess, supposedly there to to keep an eye on her charge, slip into the church for five minutes, leaving little Mildred on her own?
    Meanwhile a distraught young woman visits Lucy, asking for help regarding her missing baby.  Alice Corbett has given her baby up for adoption to a Mrs Huddlestone, who has promised Alice she may visit baby Lily in a few months' time. However, unable to wait that long, Alice has gone in search of the Huddlestones, only to discover that she has been given a false address. Because her husband is so busy with the case in Droitwich, Lucy decides to do a bit of investigating herself.
    With loads of dialogue, quaint characters and humour, The Droitwich Deceivers is a quick and easy read. While it sheds a light on the plight of poor, single women with no means to support their babies, and even the more well-to-do ones who find themselves in marriages where they have no control over their destinies, it doesn't preach or tax the brain too much. There's enough action and nail-biting tension to keep the reader eager to discover the outcome of the Ravenscrofts' investigations - two missing children and an astonishing secret give the plot plenty to work with. A diverting read, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I shall certainly be seeking out more in the Inspector Ravenscroft series.

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