Saturday, 26 September 2009

Grave Stones


It’s been a bumper year for Priscilla Masters, who has in a short space of time had two very different books published by Allison & Busby. I covered Buried in Clay in this blog a while back – it is a novel, essentially, of romantic suspense, rather different from her other work, no doubt because the original version was written quite some time ago.

When Cilla and I met at the St Hilda’s conference, she told me about her latest book, Grave Stones, and naturally I was eager to lay my hands on it – all the more so since it features Cilla’s most enduring character, DI Joanna Piercy. Joanna is one of the most human and likeable cops around, very credibly portrayed. At the start of this novel, she’s sunning herself on holiday in a bikini, at the end she is choosing what to wear for her wedding to the traditionally inclined Matthew. In between, she has to solve a pleasingly contrived mystery puzzle.

Jakob Grimshaw, a Staffordshire moorland farmer, is found with the back of his skull battered by a copestone taken from the wall marking the boundary between his land and Kathleen Weston’s. Grimshaw had recently raised funds by selling off land for housing development, and (as so often happens) this had caused a good deal of angst. Could resentment of Grimshaw explain why someone wanted him dead?

In fact, the solution is pretty intricate, and there is an appealing, and all too credible, ambiguity about one aspect of exactly what happened. But quite apart from the whodunit plot, readers will enjoy Priscilla Masters’ portrayal of the Staffordshire countryside, in particular in and around the town of Leek. It’s an area that she knows very well indeed, and her love of the landscape shines through. She understands what makes rural communities tick, and also the threats that they face in 21st century Britain. This is a novel with a number of agreeable ingredients which I hope will combine to earn it a great deal of acclaim.

9 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This sounds like one I'd enjoy--even if it wasn't a mystery. I'm interested in the fate of rural towns in the US and UK and how they approach the future. Very interesting.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Martin Edwards said...

Me too, Elizabeth. It's a fascinating topic, and a significant background element in The Serpent Pool.

Maxine said...

Sounds interesting - and it's an area I knew pretty well once, having lived there for a couple of years. Can you read this one without having read the previous ones?
Honestly, I don't mean to be ungracious, but I just read the latest Val McD - Fever of the Bone - of course it is very good, professionally written and plotted, etc, but it has got so much hype....I am sure there are many novelists such as Priscilla Masters who (from the sounds of your review) are writing novels that deserve just as much attention and sales - but probably don't get either. Nothing against Val McD I hasten to add - but it is a pity when the crime fiction universe is skewed towards just a few authors getting massive advertising budgets (eg Rankin) and others, practically no attention (or, actually none - apart from us bloggers!).

Dorte H said...

But then it is good there are bloggers, Maxine. And Martin has certainly also tempted me! This one sounds far too good to miss.

Martin Edwards said...

Maxine, thanks for these observations. Val's just moved publishers, so I would assume that part of the deal is lots of marketing spend.
For most writers, as you say, that isn't available, so we do have to rely on word of mouth and you can bet that any support from bloggers is much appreciated. I'm not saying that all mid-list writers are brilliant, but I do believe that quite a few good ones tend to be unfairly overlooked. Sometimes this is corrected when an editor gets behind you in a big way (eg Peter Robinson and Ann Cleeves, who are now big sellers) but more often it isn't, and that's a pity. Cilla is a friend of mine, so I'm not totally impartial, but I do think her books are enjoyable reads. You don't need to have read the earlier books first (and in fact, I think that is true of most series, though some disagree.)

Rob Surtees said...

A new Priscilla Masters is welcome news; as you say, she very good at evoking contemporary rural England (the problems of Inspector Rebus's Edinburgh beat are as nothing compared to the frustrations of hunting for a missing child in a foot-and-mouth restricted area!). And DI Piercy is one of the most appealing detectives around, with an engaging sidekick. The only blot on the landscape is the desiccated Matthew...
Re reading series in order: I agree that it isn't always essential. Good authors are adept at giving you enough backstory in each book to enable you to understand any ongoing (or broken) relationships. (A recent Peter Robinson was an exception: it was about a crime that arose out of an earlier crime; the story loses a lot of its impact if you don't know just how nasty the original crime was).

Martin Edwards said...

Very well put, Rob. Getting the right amount of backstory in, without being tedious, is sometimes a challenge, but it's important for us series writers to strive to rise to it.

Minnie said...

Priscilla Masters is excellent, and thank you for alerting us to her latest. I've read several of her works, and she's always interesting. One - to my shame I forget the title - was set in Shrewsbury during severe flooding, and the sense of place was extraordinarily good. It sounds as if she's done the same for Leek.
I don't know about other readers, but I always love that ability in a writer: taking a location, and making it real for the reader, even if unfamiliar. It does add to the overall effect - and enjoyment.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Minnie. The Shrewsbury book you're thinking of is River Deep. Another good one.