Edwards, Martin - 'The Cipher Garden'
THE CIPHER GARDEN is the second in Martin Edwards' new series set in the Lake District. The main characters are Daniel Kind, historian and DCI Hannah Scarlett head of the local Cold Case Review section. Daniel and his partner Miranda have downsized from Oxford to return to a favourite place from Daniel's childhood and coincidentally Hannah used to work for Daniel's policeman father.
Hannah reopens the case of the murder of Warren Howe after receiving an anonymous letter implicating Howe's widow. Howe, a landscape gardener had been scythed down whilst digging in a local client's back garden. There were no witnesses and no clues. Though Howe was a womaniser, he was deemed fairly harmless and even so all the major suspects had alibis.
Hannah goes back to the murder scene in the small village of Old Sawrey and interviews Tina Howe. She discovers that there are relationships criss-crossing the whole village, including the fact that Tina is now seeing her ex-husband's business partner, Peter Flint, and that his wife was one of Howe's conquests.
Meanwhile Daniel involves himself in the investigation by inviting Flint to his home at Tarn Cottage to quote for redesigning the garden. The garden appears to have no pattern and is full of unusual plants. Daniel follows up by visiting a pub in Old Sawrey and meeting some more of the involved parties.
Though Daniel and Hannah work mostly separately they discover the identity of the murderer almost simultaneously but are too late to stop another tragedy.
THE CIPHER GARDEN is a bit of a locked village mystery with all the possible suspects living within a stone's throw of each other. It's very well written and the leads, Daniel and Hannah are very likeable and it seems probable that they will end up together eventually. Their current partners though are still in the frame, however there are some slight cracks showing in their respective relationships. The whodunit aspect is gripping, I didn't have a clue who the guilty party was and after a slightly slow start the story really drew me in. This is an excellent British mystery with the bonus of a beautiful setting and a bit of local history thrown in.
Karen Meek, England