The Serpent Pool
'A traditional British mystery, set in the Lake District. A female Detective Inspector reinvestigates a cold case that seems to have a connection with her bookseller boyfriend. Interesting titbits about a former local resident, Thomas De Quincey, skilled evocation of landscape and a clever plot add up to an excellent read.'
Jessica Mann, Literary Review
'In Edwards's fourth "Lake District" procedural, DI Hannah Scarlett works a cold case involving the mysterious drowning of a young woman. Was it suicide or murder? Meanwhile, the rest of the Cumbria CID is investigating the gruesome death of a book collector incinerated along with his books. Verdict: the juxtaposition of human relationships past and present, the interweaving of the writings and life of Thomas de Quincey with the contemporary plot, and the backdrop of England's Lake District, famous for its literary connections, make this an excellent choice for discerning readers who want an unusual and challenging puzzle mystery that will keep them guessing until the final pages. Wow!'
Library Journal (starred review)
‘On the face of it, the Lake District couldn't be more different from the frantic, grasping shallowness of [London], but in Martin Edwards's capable hands, it proves just as effective a backdrop to murder. Local "cold case" specialist DCI Hannah Scarlett is tasked with uncovering the truth behind a young woman's apparent suicide by drowning. Naturally there's more to it than meets the eye, and it soon becomes clear that the death is connected to some recent murders. With evocative descriptions of everything from landscape to cocktail parties, expert plotting, an engaging protagonist and strongly delineated characters, The Serpent Pool is old-fashioned, well-made crime fiction at its best, and the dénouement will have you choking on your Kendal mint cake.’
Laura Wilson, The Guardian
'For whatever reason, it's taken a small press to publish this outstanding series of English traditional mysteries in the United States. All feature DCI Hannah Scarlett, a cold- case investigator, and Oxford historian Daniel Kind, whose policeman father was Hannah's mentor.
The setting is England's beautiful (but gloomy) Lake District, where both live and work. Like its predecessors, this one has a wonderfully convoluted plot, further complicated by a subtle chemistry between Hannah and Daniel that neither is ready to acknowledge.
In their fourth outing, the relationship between Hannah and Daniel continues to slowly progress, with Hannah now having problems with her live-in bookseller boyfriend Marc Amos and her insolent new junior officer and Daniel, now unencumbered, writing a biography of the opium-addicted 19th century writer Thomas De Quincey.
A cold case that Hannah is working on, the drowning of a young woman in the Serpent Pool near her home, seems to be connected to two more recent murders, and she thinks it's no coincidence that all three victims died in the exact way that would have been the most terrifying for each of them, and that all three cases have a rare-book connection that could disturbingly point to Marc.
Character, atmosphere, plot and pace — this series has it all, and fans of Stephen Booth and Peter Robinson would do well to check it out.’
Tom and Enid Schantz, The Denver Post
'Book lovers, especially fans of nineteenth-century writer and opium addict Thomas de Quincey, will enjoy the latest Lake District mystery. DCI Hannah Scarlett reopens another cold case, this one involving the drowning death, seven years ago, of a young woman. But Hannah is distracted by her personal life, especially by her rocky relationship with book dealer Marc Amos, who is himself rather upset over the death of one his best customers (whose murder-by-fire opens the novel). Meanwhile, Hannah’s friend and sometime sidekick, historian Daniel Kind, is deep into a new book on de Quincey (who was among the first writers to consider murder as the basis of a literary art form), but he, too, soon becomes distracted: his sister thinks she has accidentally killed her lover, who also happens to be a book collector. In his usual leisurely but always compelling way, Edwards pulls together these various plot threads, rewarding the patient reader with a story that is complex and intellectually stimulating. Certainly the most labyrinthine of the Lake District novels, but perhaps also the best.'
'This series has become a gem in thoughtful, contemporary crime novels. For readers who enjoy a strong sense of place with the past a location in its own right, and who seek interesting, clearly drawn characters as much as a gripping story, these books tick all the boxes.
The Serpent Pool sees the two main protagonists more definite about their feelings for each other than in previous novels. Hannah, in particular, is struggling to contain her emotions as she tries to reconcile herself to life in a newly purchased, spectacularly spartan house with partner Marc. This will-they-won't-they dilemma has become the fulcrum for the series, adding spice and flavour to the murder mystery driving each book.
The key murder in The Serpent Pool, which raises the curtain in a sinister and attention-grabbing opener, proves not to be the last, while a six-year-old suspicious death which Hannah is working on...has overlapping dramatis personae which might suggest a connection. The personalities – such as Wanda the frosty sex goddess, Fern the irreverent, greedy DCI – who inhabit the novel are fascinating and offer glimpses into intriguing lives. This is one of Edwards' great strengths: he is not afraid to set his novels very much in the now and unlike some more reclusive writers is immersed in modern culture. This extends to an understanding of business and institutional politics; Edwards' unambiguous exposition of which provides yet another facet to this appealing, fast-paced book.
However, one of the novel's main protagonists is a historian and Edwards also delights in revealing the past. As always, it is the past which Daniel Kind is researching which supplies the underlying theme. In The Serpent Pool, this is murder as a fine art, as expounded by Victorian essayist and opium addict Thomas de Quincey. If that sounds grotesque, it's not a false lead, and there are powerful elements of Gothic horror at work in this book. The Serpent Pool, is the darkest of the four Lakes novels and possibly the most rewarding.
Dea Parkin, Crime Time
'The musty, sedate world of old books provides the backdrop for a series of gruesome murders in Edwards's absorbing fourth Lake District mystery.'
'Martin Edwards writes some of the finest traditional English mysteries being published today...Edwards develops memorable characters who come to life in his novels. This makes his antagonists much more terrifying than the one-dimensional villains of the typical crime novel. He also makes the most of his chosen settings in the Lake District, using its geographical and historical features to excellent advantage. Lonely landscapes and literary lore enrich his stories. The personal relationships and neighbors' knowledge of everyone's business are as important as they are in Golden Age English villages. Even though aspects of Edwards's plot would suit De Quincey better than Agatha Christie, wit and humor keep the tale from becoming too grim. The Serpent Pool is a first-rate psychological mystery.'
Mary Helen Becker, Mystery Scene
'Edwards provides a credible pairing of cozy and credible storytelling.'
'The fourth in the author's excellent Lake District series, and I think the best yet. Most of the absorbing first half of the novel is taken up with Hannah's and Daniel's separate preoccupations and emotions, as they go about their daily lives in strong, but unspoken, awareness of each other. The novel is infused with many small but telling observations about society, literature, the book business and police work, at the same time building up a sense of tension as we realize that an old mystery is continuing to have dramatic impacts. In addition, Hannah is constantly uneasy about Marc - and because her own feelings for him are changing she does not know how far to trust him, or what he might have done in the past. When another murder happens about half way through the book, the mood shifts from introspective to action-based. The author has woven a clever and very tangled web to keep his readers fully distracted before the final solution is revealed.
I highly recommend the Lake District series, probably best read in order though it is not essential. As well as being an excellent set of page-turners replete with authentic local colour, the books have the added benefit of being written with intelligence by a talented author who is clearly very knowledgeable and cultured, with a mature, gently ironic view of the world. I congratulate Martin Edwards on this superb contribution to what I think is one of the very best crime-fiction series being written today.'
Maxine Clarke, Eurocrime,
'I never read crime fiction, a friend recently admitted - I prefer stories about people to those about murders and kidnappings. I used to feel the same, I replied, until I disovered Martin Edwards...Memorable characters...the plot, too, is full of twists and turns...A great read, and not just for crime fans.'
Brian Page, Mensa Magazine
'The Serpent Pool is a superb mystery, from both a plot, replete with classical literary references, and stylistic perspective. The characters are delightful and well drawn, the Lake District setting beautiful and charming. Even the various romantic elements, including those simmering just beneath the surface, play an important role here. As dark and disturbing secrets come to light, answers to questions of murder or suicide, past and present, are finally established in the thrilling conclusion to this exciting suspense novel.'
'It’s always a thrill to read a good crime novel and discover that it’s part of a series. The Serpent Pool, advertised as a ‘Lake District Mystery’ follows The Coffin Trail, The Cipher Garden and The Arsenic Labyrinth. Books to seek out.
Two crimes are plaited together here, a cold case investigated by DCI Hannah Scarlett and a viciously cruel killing followed by others, equally barbaric, investigated by Hannah’s friend and colleague, Fern Larter. Edwards’ plotting is assured and his characters, especially that of Hannah Scarlett, well-rounded, but what really makes his book attractive is the use of background. He is so familiar with the lakes and fells of his chosen region that one feels that the crimes could not have been committed anywhere else. The extreme and swiftly changing weather, the narrow, twisting roads, the small almost incestuous population are all elements which harbour danger, secrets and grudges.
The book selling and book collecting community is well drawn as is the literary influence of Thomas de Quincey. Edwards has done his research carefully but has resisted the temptation to show off useless knowledge.
A good story with a tense and exciting end.'
Catherine Hunt, Shots Magazine
'Those who like a good crime read will be hooked from the very first page of this complex mystery.
Dark secrets are slowly revealed and answers to questions of murder and suicide – past and present – finally become known in an exciting conclusion to this suspenseful novel.
The characters are well drawn and delightful, the Lake District setting surreal and beautiful!
This is the latest in a series of four exciting Lakes-based reads from Edwards.'
Christiane Rogerson, Lancashire Telegraph
'Excellently written detective story, just the right amount of tension, characters that hold your interest, and a plot that will keep you guessing to the end. First rate.'
'The interest is maintained throughout and the gradual revelations of the characters' motivations and actions bring the strands of the story pleasingly together and lead to a satisfying conclusion. This is an engrossing read and is an excellent entry in what is a very entertaining series.'
Geoff Bradley, CADS
'The characerisation can be toe-curlingly proficicient...All human life is between its covers: love, lust, jealousy, pride, greed, ambition, self-delusion.' Jonathan Rayner, Law Society's Gazette
'Thrillingly marries suspense, literature and the unravelling relationship of its central characters to great effect...Fast-paced with an excellent conclusion, Martin Edwards' characters are well-thought-out and rounded'
'I have enjoyed all the books in this series, but this is the best to date. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.
Lizzie Hayes, Mystery Women
'The Serpent Pool is one of those stories characterised by careful groundwork that then gathers breathtaking pace in the second half. I enjoyed the book very much. It is number four in Edwards' Lake District Mysteries series, and while for those who have read earlier titles it is another very satisfying instalment, those who have not read earlier ones need not worry about whether they have missed too much of the backstory. I think Martin Edwards treads that fine line marvellously well. Those new to this series will find themselves hunting for the earlier titles.'
Mysteries in Paradise
'Martin Edwards’ Lake District series is one of my favourites…The Lake District is a beautiful setting for a series, the mysteries are intriguing & the protagonists are likeable….I love the way Edwards uses history and literature in the books….This series is a success on several levels for me. The setting, the labyrinthine plots and especially the relationship between Daniel & Hannah keep me on tenterhooks for the next instalment.'
I Prefer Reading
'Here’s a satisfying read. A beautiful, atmospheric background, an interesting protagonist..and a series of characters in the (it turns out quite claustrophobic) Lakeland community whose lives are exposed in this winter setting where visitors to this idyllic place are fewer on the ground than at another time of the year. This cold case...involves the death, which may have been suicide, but in any case a questionable suicide, of a young woman whose body was found in the Serpent Pool of the title, high on the Lakeland Fells...But events soon overtake this isolated cold case enquiry, when two particularly horrific murders take place in fairly quick succession and the police are called in.
An ending where the reader is kept hanging on his or her seat in suspense concerning the outcome moves in tandem with the utter surprise of the dénouement.
Phyllis Davies, Tangled Web UK
'The latest in the excellent series featuring historian Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett...Martin Edwards catches the atmosphere of living in small communities well: that knowledge that if you so much as sneeze someone will be talking about it and probably not too kindly...I enjoy the way that Edwards evokes the landscape and spirit of the Lakes... many of his characters are incomers.. but they are not all as benign, and Edwards has shown himself good at depicting people who’ve made their money in the cities and then move into rural communities where they buy up the houses and then shut themselves behind security gates.
A real nail-biter of a denouement will keep fans of Martin’s books very happy – the tension really builds in the second half. Definitely one to save for a weekend, or an indulgent day off. With a good fire and a nice cup of tea to ward off that chilly Lakeland fog I can promise you will be in for a good read.'
Geranium Cat blog
'A terrific book. It has everything, a great sense of location, believable, complex characters, a crime to solve, full of tension and well paced to keep you wanting to know more, and so atmospheric. I loved all the literary connections, the secondhand bookshop, the book collectors and historian, Daniel Kind’s research into the 19th century writer, Thomas de Quincey and his history of murder.'
Books Please blog
'Edwards provides us with intelligent and well-plotted crime fiction, plus an ending you won't see coming. He'll always be welcome on my shelf!'
Sharon Wheeler, Reviewing the Evidence
'Quite apart from the ingenious solution of the cases (in which de Quincey features in an unexpected way), the interest of the novel lies in the details of police procedure and also, of course, in the relationship between Hannah and Daniel(who I cannot help visualising as looking exactly like Daniel Craig, which makes everything even more delightful).
If you like good, solid, intelligent detective fiction, you will not be disappointed in this. Go get it!'
Harriet Devine's blog
'Once the scene is set, excitement slowly builds up until the dramatic denouement at the end.
Martin Edwards paints a lifelike picture of life in the Lakes which, as in Morse's Oxford and Taggart's Glasgow, forms an integral part of the book. Don't bet against a TV series here.
Will Hannah and Daniel get together at last?
Watch out for the next episode. This story could run and run.'
Ron Ellis, I Love a Mystery
'This novel has all the elements of the mysteries of these stalwarts: suspense, sinisteraspects, hidden secrets, a tight plot and interesting characters and
Ted Feit, DorothyL
'Edwards makes the most of this setting, which is both picturesque, laden with legend, and at times a bit eerie. Here among the towns and villages of this fabled region of Cumbria, various dramas play out. Some concern crime; others are about love – or rather, frustrated longing. I liked the way in which the characters, their fates inextricably entwined, shift in and out of focus as the story moved forward...There’s a brooding, introspective mood to this novel, but Edwards occasionally lightens the atmosphere with flashes of wit...an enjoyable addition to a fine series of crime novels.'
Roberta Rood's blog
'The mystery is complex and satisfying. The development of the characters...is interesting..As ever in this series the Lake District plays a big part in the story and broods over all.
...compelling reading. I liked how all the clues built up but I still didn't work out completely who was responsible before the end. I liked the background - Thomas De Quincey, rare books and printing. I recommend it.
Jill Weekes' blog
'Like the first three books, The Serpent Pool is an engrossing and enjoyable way to spend some time.'
Murder by Type blog
'The Serpent Pool will capture your attention from the get go and you will fall into the countryside of the lovely Lake District of England. Unfortunately, murder gives it an unexpected tilt.'
Book Loons Reviews
'This one was quite disturbing... not that I minded. As with all Martin Edward novels I've read, I had no idea who the killer was until near the end (which in part frustrated me...) However, I was so happy with other story lines, I quietly let the story unfold before me without over-analyzing everything.
The book had a psychological aspect to it, I liked that. It delved into human behavior that I wanted to research more. I like my books not only to entertain but enlighten and this book did just that.'
Listen to the Voices blog
'It is often said that good mystery writing is founded on the careful and measured release of information to the reader. Martin is a master of the technique. Whether he writes about Hannah’s personal problems with the men in her life, the interesting murders of two book dealers/collectors in the immediate area, or the weather which can be depressing at times, the author maintains careful control.'
Carl Brookins, It's Not all Gravy blog
'Excellent...The whole thing – convoluted, but what the hell? – builds nicely to an exciting climax...The unsentimental depiction of the Lake District setting is an intrinsic part of this intriguing series, like this “quartet of Herdwick sheep, surveying the activity of the emergency services with bemused fatalism.'
'A thoroughly enjoyable cosy crime with the added advantage of being set in the Lake District.'
A Book Every Six Days blog