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.