EXCERPT: … on a bitter day in January, darkness came early to Avenridge, and finally to Mildred Hewitt. When the manner of her death became known, it sent shock waves through the town; there was gossip, speculation, bewilderment. Mildred Hewitt was a widow of excellent reputation and social prominence, strenuous in charitable work, a devoted mother, a scrupulous businesswoman, and a nerve-wracking snob. The name of Hewitt stood well in Avenridge, they had lived there for four generations, establishing their business – Hewitt’s High Class Printers – going about their respectable, mundane affairs, consolidating their modest fortune. Mildred Hewitt’s pride in them, in her status, gave her charm its ruthless quality and set an edge of arrogance to her general resolution.
But Mildred Hewitt had a secret, and it was because of the secret that she died.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: When Arnold Peabody dies, nobody but his grasping cousin Edith takes much notice.
A quiet, ineffectual little man, he was lost following the death of his domineering mother — and took his own life shortly after her demise.
The death of Mildred Hewitt, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter.
A pillar of society and formidable matriarch in Avenridge, Mildred falls to her death from a local beauty spot one snowy night a few weeks after Arnold’s death.
Like Arnold, her son Gilbert is helpless without the commanding presence of his mother…but Gilbert goes even more spectacularly off the rails.
Puffed up with his own sense of self-importance and twisted sense of reality, Gilbert is entirely incapable of life on his own.
He decides, as Arnold had done, to visit a local medium in the hope of obtaining some contact with his mother from beyond the grave — something, anything, that will tell him what to do.
There he meets the mysterious Veronica, who quickly becomes his guardian angel…or does she have a more sinister motivation for inserting herself into Gilbert’s life?
Chief Inspector Henry Beaumont, a frequent visitor to Avenridge since his years there as an evacuee, finds himself increasingly involved in the Hewitt case — which smells of murder.
The case of Arnold Peabody, and its similarity to the Hewitt case, flickers at the back of his mind and Henry begins to wonder if the two deaths are not connected.
Incidents from his childhood, blurred by time, return to haunt him as Gilbert spirals into madness, stirring up memories of old scandals and bringing long-forgotten people back into play.
As Henry unpeels layer upon layer of old scandal and undreamed-of connections, Veronica becomes ever more elusive, leading him to wonder if he can find her before tragedy strikes yet again…
MY THOUGHTS: It took me a little to get into this book. At first it appeared pretentious, but soon the machinations of the characters and the nature of the mystery had me engrossed.
Set in the early 1970’s, before mobile phones and computers, it all now seems a little old-world, and it seemed to me that it could have been set much earlier than that. Even the characters seem a little old fashioned, a little more old world than I would have expected for this time period. It could easily have been set in the 1950’s, or even earlier. But in no way is this a criticism.
The author has taken time to develop her characters into a very interesting bunch. My particular favorite is Emmeline …’Emmeline’s pullover was on inside out and she had lost the buttons of her shirt sleeves. Or someone’s shirt, it was far too big for her and could have been one of her father’s. …It simply doesn’t occur to her she might look as if she’s just cleaned out the cellar.’ A little fey, a lot unconventional, Emmeline shines.
An intriguing mystery peppered with interesting characters. I will be reading more by this author.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Meg Elizabeth Atkins has won many plaudits for her fiction on both sides of the Atlantic, and reviewers have compared her to Elizabeth Bowen and Barbara Pym for the elegance of her writing. In several of her earlier novels, such as Samain, Palimpsest and Tangle, she has explored the disturbing undercurrents beneath the polite surface of English middle-class life, and in Cruel as the Grave forces erupt through the repression and containment of daily existence with violent consequences.
Meg Elizabeth Atkins lives with her husband in a North Yorkshire village. She teaches creative writing and her other books include By The North Door, Cruel As The Grave and Samain.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Endeavour Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Tangle by Meg Elizabeth Atkins for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my profile page on Goodreads.com or the about page on my webpage sandysbookaday/wordpess.com This review and others also appear on Twitter, Amazon, and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1717003739?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1