I recently finished Death and the Chevalier by Robin Blake. This is the 6th installment in the series about Coroner Cragg and Doctor Fidelis’ adventures.
I’ve read only this installment at this stage on the promise to write review for NetGalley.
Here it is
As the Young Pretender and his Jacobite army approach, Coroner Titus Cragg must solve a brutal murder -and prevent himself being executed for the crime.
November, 1745. Preston, Lancashire. Rumours abound that Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, has landed in Scotland, intent on marching south to claim the English throne. Meanwhile, a headless body is discovered in an icy pond. Coroner Titus Cragg thinks he has a lead when a head is eventually found – only to discover that it belongs to a different body. Could there be a connection to the approaching rebel army? Or is someone using the Highlanders’ invasion as a cover-up for murder?
As simmering tensions, conflicting loyalties and open hostilities split the town, Cragg finds himself arrested for murder. In order to clear his name and escape execution by firing squad, Titus must team up with his old friend, Dr Luke Fidelis, to expose the real killer.
This book is announced as Mystery. However, I found it to be less of a mystery more of a adventure novel or even historical novel.
The plot and sub-plots in this book developed too slowly to be suspenseful and qualify for mystery, in my opinion.
Coroner Cragg is former lawyer who became county coroner. He lives with his wife and toddler son, and housemaid. He is well-respected in his county and uses certain influence.
His friend Dr Fidelis is treating patients but is on call when something untoward happens and Cragg needs help.
All secondary characters have their respective roles to play. There are characters that you acutely like: Cragg’s wife Elizabeth and even dog Bawty. And there are those that you do not feel sorry to see the end of.
I found that setting, especially the time, played an important role in this story. Being caught between two armies: King’s and Pretender’s creates havoc in Preston. People do not know what to expect. They are trying to hide their valuables and loved ones. The memory of past military conflicts and horrors are still alive in people’s mind. The allegiances are not clear.
Thus, conducting inquest into suspicious incidents of any kind turn out to be problematic. Who is the guilty party? And from what angle, camp, position are they guilty or innocent? If the victims are Pretender’s supporters and will be punished, what would happen to those who punish them when Pretender’s army comes through? And vice.
So, there is no clear cut ‘solve the murder’ trail in this story.
All-in-all Death and the Chevalier was an interesting, light read. The title turned out to be a bit misleading. There was little about Chevalier and Death came and went regardless of Pretender’s whereabouts.
The language of the narration was light and rhythmic to keep interest going. Also, characters were coloured enough to form opinion of them one way or another. Some witty moments helped a lot to keep me reading (especially those of housemaid and highwayman).
But, I found the end of the book really dragging. There was a nice place to finish the story but the author decided to prolong it with a few more pages with no particular purpose or interest. The ‘happy end’ to the story could have happened much earlier.
I gave this book 4 stars.