It’s already time for my second blog tour! I was so happy to see this review request in my inbox, and that was from the summary alone. Mortmain Hall promised a classic whodunit puzzle set in 1930, the Golden Age of gothic mystery and chilling murder. Plus, look at that gorgeous cover! There is just no way I could resist being part of this awesome blog tour to celebrate the publication of Mortmain Hall.
A chilling encounter on the London Necropolis Railway leads to murder. At the Old Bailey, a man accused on a ‘blazing car’ killing escapes the gallows after a surprise witness gives sensational evidence, and there is a tragic drowning in a frozen lake. Young journalist Jacob Flint will find himself embroiled far beyond his remit as a court reporter and eventually framed for murder. Enter Rachel Saversnake – rich, ruthless and obsessed with her own dark notions of justice. She has a sixth sense that the cases are connected – but what is that link and what answers will she discover upon arrival at Mortmain Hall.
Mortmain Hall is a remote estate on the North Yorkshire coast. It plays host to a party organised by an eccentric female criminologist, who has gathered people who have narrowly escaped the consequences of miscarriages of justice. However, the house party is cut short by tragedy when a body is found beneath the crumbling cliffs. Is the death an accident or the result of an ingenious plot to get away with murder?
As you can see from my rating, it is no secret that I loved this book. I know that I love mysteries, but my interest in those directly incorporating crime has been growing specifically due to Mortmain Hall and Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson. Vitally Edwards ensured that Mortmain Hall delivered on the enchanting promise of the premise through clear writing, intriguing plot moments, memorable scenes and thoroughly engaging characters. I will say here that I was shocked by just how much I engaged with this book based on my interest in the discussion of execution in literature, so I do also have an academic investment in this title as well. I also do want to highlight this book for anyone interested in Law and Literature, especially given Edwards’ background working in the law for many years.
There were so many great aspects of this book, but Rachel Saversnake proved an immediate and lasting favourite. While she is the lead character, she is cut from the figures of Agatha Christie’s two most famous unconventional detectives, rarely pushing themselves so forward to become the centre of attention, until the murders need to be explained, but also not so unassuming as to disappear into the background. Rachel stands out, however, by exuding decorum and mystery alongside an immediately relatable charm, conviction and drive. Speaking of comparing Rachel to such beloved detectives, her concluding revelation of the murder’s identity is straight out of one of these detective narratives. She revels in the fine detail, and I loved it. The sentiments of Rachel’s dialogue and opinions are written so clearly that, despite the cloud of mystery surrounding her, her character is so clear to the reader, leaving no room for confusion. Also, her relationship with the Trueman family is so heartwarming and, in true Marauders fashion, I now immediately want to read more about their relationship and adventures.
Jacob Flint, a journalist, swept away both by events unfolding around him and vague morsels of information, positions the reader effortlessly between both an invested experienced perspective and that of the relative outsider. I also enjoyed the growing friendship between Rachel and Jacob, which sees her trust her ideas in him without compromising either his curiosity or her wit. The cast of characters in this book is undoubtedly more extensive than most which do lead to transitions between multiple locations and perspectives, luckily not written in the first person, so you don’t have to decipher who “I” is on each page. The personalities of Rachel and Jacob certainly stand-out from the crowd, however, the connections between the secondary characters are genuinely intriguing as directly informed by the period and well-documented friendships between England’s most famous authors including Arthur Conan Doyle, A. A. Milne, and J. M. Barrie who were cricket teammates. However, I do feel that the amount of information included in Leonora’s writing, and Danskin’s trial, could have been duplicated in stylised pages, presented the pages of her book and the court report, for the reader to easily reference.
This is going to sound a little gruesome but given that I’ve spent my academic career closely studying blood, guts and ghosts and reading thrillers for fun, this should make more sense. There are so many intriguing presentations of literary murder in here, and they’re certainly not your typical searches for the murder-weapon. If you’re interested in creative solutions and connections between complex dark ideas, this read is one for you.
I believe the 1930s historical setting heavily informs the narrative treatment of the LBTQ+ community in Mortmain Hall. I am an ally to this community, but I believe that an LBTQ+ reviewer should be the one to speak to the representation, in mind of the historical context.
I just simply fell in love with this book. The extensive possibilities, intricate plotting and connections lead by two engaging characters all kept me hooked until the very last page. As soon as the book industry and deliveries get back to normal, I’ll be buying a finished copy along with Gallows Court, the first book in the Rachel Saversnake series.
Head of Zeus are publishing Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards on the 2nd of April 2020.
I was fortunate enough to be sent an advanced reader’s copy of Mortmain Hall in exchange for this review as part of the blog tour. All views expressed in this review are my own, and I clarified in my contact with Head of Zeus that my reviews will always be honest. No links in this review are sponsored, or affiliate links and I do not make any profit from this review.
Thank you to Head of Zeus and Martina Ticic for sending me an advanced reader’s copy.
Buisness E-Mail: Vickylordreview@gmail.com
Goodreads: Vicky Lord