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Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Arsenic Labyrinth, by Martin Edwards (trade, $14.95) (c2007)

Poisoned Pen Press is famous for bringing American readers books they otherwise wouldn't be able to easily obtain. In this case, they have brought us Martin Edwards, a CWA-nominated British author who has written the popular (in England) Lake District mysteries.

These are top-notch mysteries in the British fashion without excessive gore, little swearing (at least in this book) and no graphic sex. That's not to say that they are cute and toothless. DCI Hannah Scarlett, the heroine of the series, is a modern, no-nonsense detective. In The Arsenic Labyrinth, the third in the series, she has been relegated to the Cold Case Squad. It is meant as a punishment, but in fact the assignment suits her talents admirably. Daniel Kind is an historian who has moved to the Lake District to escape the helter-skelter of Oxford and London. Together they have managed to disentangle mysteries set in the picturesque Lake District.

Although I have not read the other two books (The Coffin Trail and The Cipher Garden), Edwards is a good enough writer that I didn't feel asea. Relationships built in the other novels are completely explained and brought forward within this book.

The reader can understand the relationships and motives because they are written at a fundamentally human level. At the same time, the story is also a good mystery, complete with red herrings, and the writing is smooth and evocative of what makes the Lake District special.

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