Wednesday 17 March 2021

Guest Review: A Fatal Secret by Faith Martin

Oxford, 1961

A family day out at Briar’s Hall ends in tragedy when a young boy goes missing – and his body is found at the bottom of a disused well in the orchard.

It looks like a simple case of an eleven-year-old exploring where he shouldn’t: a tragic accident. But Coroner Clement Ryder and Probationary WPC Trudy Loveday aren’t convinced. If Eddie had been climbing and fallen, why were there no cuts or dirt on his hands? Why would a boy terrified of heights be around a well at all?

Clement and Trudy are determined to get to the truth, but the more they dig into Briar’s Hall and the mysterious de Lacey family who live there, the murkier things become.

Could it be that poor Eddie’s death was murder? There are rumours of blackmail in the village, and Clement and Trudy have a horrible feeling that Eddie stumbled on a secret that someone was willing to kill for…

Review: This is book 4 in the Ryder and Loveday series of murder mysteries from Faith Martin. The books feature cases in which Oxford city coroner Dr Clement Ryder and WPC Trudy Loveday work together to investigate deaths of uncertain causes. I have been working through the stories in order and enjoying seeing the pair succeed in getting to the bottom of several investigations. Each book is set in the Oxford area in the 1960s. Although each is part of a series, the books can all be read as standalones.

In this story, Dr Ryder and Trudy join forces to investigate the suspicious death of a young boy who has been found dead in an old well during an Easter egg hunt. Their investigations lead them into the world of a wealthy local family who own the impressive house and grounds where the egg hunt took place. They also question servants and groundsmen at the house as well as the boy’s family and local villagers as they try to piece together the sequence of events and everyone’s movements on the afternoon the boy died. It seems that key to the investigation is the daughter of the house, who was best friends with the boy. The investigators begin to wonder whether something that the children have discovered might have led to his death, perhaps a secret that would have been disastrous for the family had it been revealed, a secret that might lead even them into danger.

Once again, Faith Martin has presented the reader with a wonderful mystery, brimming with interesting characters and situations. I thought some of the characters were very dark, giving a definite feeling of danger throughout the book. When it became apparent what was behind all the secrecy, I was as surprised as the investigators, but even more so by the twist at the end. In addition to the secret involved in the case, Dr Ryder is still trying to keep his failing health hidden from everyone else, but Trudy is becoming more and more suspicious. I would recommend this entire series to other readers who enjoy a thrilling mystery and am looking forward to Ryder and Loveday’s next case.

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