Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

First Sentence: On the hottest day of the year, Larry Glassbrook has come home to his native Lancashire for the last time, and the townsfolk have turned out to say goodbye.
Police detective Florence Lovelady's career was made when she brought about the arrest and conviction of serial child-murderer Larry Glassbrook.  Thirty years later, Florence, with her son, returns to witness Glassbrook's funeral and to the small village where events took place.  Revisiting the property where she originally stayed, she finds an effigy, similar to those found with the murdered children, but this one looks like her.  Another child disappears calling into question whether Glassbrook really was guilty or is there a copycat.  When Florence's son disappears, it becomes very personal.
Having the story set in two time periods, 1969 and 1999, works very well.  One becomes immersed in the case from the beginning, meeting all the significant characters.  In 1969, Bolton establishes the relationships, and illustrates the sexism professional women faced.  Florence "Flossie" is well-created and is an example of so many women caught in that time.  The example of Florence having achieved the rank of inspector, yet still expected to type notes, was so classic for the time.  In the present-day setting, her son Ben is a wonderful source of relief from the increasing tension of the plot.
Bolton very effectively builds the feeling of suspense and threat against Florence—"The sense of something dark on the loose in Sabden was growing. If I spent any time alone, I could almost see a shadow ahead of me, slipping out of sight, and if I stopped moving, even for a few seconds, the silence around me started to feel ominous."  There is just the right touch of psychic ability and creepiness, which is perfectly offset by occasional touches of wry humor.  One can appreciate that when Florence gets into a situation which could flounder into a TSTL (too-stupid-to-live) moment, she doesn't go there—"I'm not an idiot.  Of course I thought Trap as soon as I saw it."
The setting of the Pendle Hill and the history of the Pendle witches, as well as the story being set in a small village, creates a perfect backdrop to the story.  The subject of witches and witchcraft is a fascinating one, and one which has gone on through the ages, including the last witchcraft act being repealed by the English Parliament in 1951. The characters of Daphne and Avril are the perfect tutors, as well as also providing some humor—"Don't look so worried, dear.  We don't turn people into toads anymore.".  The power of the Freemasons is another fascinating topic which is included, as well as enlightenment about priests and corpse roads.  Those who enjoy learning about the unusual will feel right at home.
Each of Bolton's books is not only a standalone, but each is unique in theme and tone.  Although Bolton has played with the idea of the paranormal before, the actual inclusion of it, employing witchcraft, is new to her writing.  It brings in just the right touch of tension which is significantly increased as the story progresses and raises the question as to the identity of the actual killer.  Although the twist is somewhat predictable, it is still very effective and is followed by one which is completely unexpected.
"The Craftsman" is a gripping read with gothic overtones, filled with suspense, surprises, and an ending which will be hard to forget.  Bolton has created another very individual story.  One can't wait to see what she does next.

THE CRAFTSMAN (Susp-AC Florence Lovelady-Lancashire, England-Cont) – VG+
      Bolton, Sharon - Standalone
      Minotaur Books – Oct 2018


  1. Bolton really is a talented writer, isn't she? And I like the way she builds suspense. I keep hearing good things about this one (haven't gotten to it yet, myself), and it sounds as though it's up to her standards.

    1. Yes, she is. This isn't quite up to the standard of "Little Black Lies," or "Dead Woman Walking" but it's very good.