I would never have chosen to read this book in a million years, but book club chose it, and so I dutifully read it! A mystery concerning 1700s Preston… yey.
From the back of the book:
The year is 1742, and the people of Preston are looking forward to their ancient once-every-twenty-years festival of merriment and excess, the Preston Guild. But the prospect darkens as the town plunges into a financial crisis caused by the death of the pawnbroker and would-be banker Philip Pimbo, shot behind the locked door of his office. Is it suicide? Coroner Titus Cragg suspect so, but Dr Luke Fidelis disagrees. To untangle the truth, Cragg must dig out the secrets of Pimbo’s personal life, learn the grim facts of the African slave trade, search for a missing civil was treasure, and deal with the machinations of his old enemy, Ephraim Grimshaw, now the town’s mayor. Cragg relies once again on the help and advice of his analytical friend, Fidelis; his astute wife, Elizabeth; and the contents of a well-stocked library.
I’ve already said this is not the type of book I would normally read. I don’t care for 1700s Preston finance at all, and I hear enough about the damned Guild living here. It’s also full of grumpy old dudes. Clearly, the Preston connection is why book club chose it, and I did enjoy the fact that that places and street were familiar – this hasn’t happened with many books I’ve read (in fact, I can only think of Michael Hurley’s The Loney that comes close). There’s a sweet map on the inside cover too:
I found this book alright. I quite enjoyed it, and if the subject matter, or book type, is more your thing, you’d probably really like it. Some of the things I did like were finding out some of the history of this time period.
I liked the character of Fidelis the best. The younger doctor is a bit quirky, and utterly confident with it, and I did like this. The descriptions of how he eats meals methodically were joyous for me.
I also thoroughly enjoyed some of the northernness of the phrasings:
‘No,’ he declared with emphasis. ‘Folk like their gold and silver too much. Change it for paper? They’ll like as change a clog for a cloud.’
Cragg’s wife is a clever, amusing woman. Throughout the novel she is reading a novel herself and this is a great little side story. The other women characters don’t come off so well, for example…
From her clothes she was evidently very poor but her poverty did not conceal the other notable fact about her: she was extremely pretty.
The two most noticeable things about her, however, were first that her face and figure were strikingly beautiful,
This book will probably well suit fans of historical mysteries, fans of Preston Guild, and people who love a bit of finance in their mysteries. I’m not wholly converted!