Trapeze | 2018 (3 May) | 432p | Review copy | Buy the book
It is 10 August 1999, the hottest day of the year, and the people of this small Lancashire town, in the shelter of Pendle Hill, have come together to bury Larry Glassbrook. But this is no traditional, grief-drenched funeral. There is nothing but hate in the hearts of every single one of these people. And with them is Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady who, thirty years before, put Larry Glassbrook away for life for the shocking murder of children, including 13-year-old Patsy Wood who was buried alive in a funeral casket.
The crime had been close to young WPC Lovelady. Her lodgings were in the home of the Glassbrooks. She knew them all, including Larry, and for all of these thirty years since she has regularly visited Larry in prison, believing he had something more to tell her about the case. That there was more to be learned. But whatever it was he said nothing, until her very last visit to a dying man. His clue leads her to a terrifying discovery, a direct link with the murders at the close of the 1960s, something that links her to them, signifying great danger. All of Florence’s hopes that she might now find peace with the burial of Larry Glassbrook have been in vain. The ghosts cannot yet be laid to rest.
Sharon Bolton is an extraordinary writer of mysteries. She always brings that extra special certain something into her stories and with The Craftsman she’s done it again. Arguably, this is the most frightening of Sharon Bolton’s novels, it’s certainly steeped in chills, superstitious foreboding and terrifying and sinister menace. The murder of Patsy sets the tone for the novel. Her horrendous death is reimagined on these pages, setting it apart from any other murder that AC Lovelady has encountered during her long and illustrious policing career. And the horror of it sets the tone for the rest of the novel, which more than lives up to the grim menace of its beginning.
The Craftsman moves between the present and the past, with much of the novel presenting the investigations of 1969. This is not only gripping and chilling, it is also absolutely fascinating for its portrayal of the trials and tribulations facing an extremely talented and gifted young police woman at that time
Thoroughly entertaining and distinctly chilly crime fiction with that extra special certain something that we expect from the wonderful Sharon Bolton, this is an engrossing read. Florence, or Flossie as her male colleagues insist on calling her, is a natural born detective and yet she has to work ten times harder than everyone else (in between making the tea) to be treated with any kind of patronising respect. And yet the more right she is proved the less they believe that she could have worked it all out herself. This misogyny and sexism is agonisingly and yet so effectively depicted by Sharon Bolton. It’s all set so perfectly within the spirit of its historical setting. Florence accepts the limitations placed on her, she has little alternative. But how we revel in her position as Assistant Commissioner in the present day part of the novel. Not one of the old and familiar faces in this town’s police force now outranks her.
This is no straightforward police crime novel. I’m saying nothing about what faces Florence when she returns to this town but suffice to say it made my jawdrop. I loved the atmosphere of The Craftsman. I loved how frightened it made me feel. The town and its people are described so vividly and yet this is a place that I saw in my mind as being of different shadows of black. There’s a sense that this is a place cut off from right and wrong. Florence is in a sense returning to her past just as the past has reemerged into the present. This is chilling stuff! And nobody writes this sort of crime fiction as well as Sharon Bolton. I also love how her novels stand alone. They always go immediately to the top of my reading pile and with each one I applaud her even more.