I am delighted to share my review today for Crow Court by Andy Charman. This is a mysterious historical fiction story that I very much enjoyed.
My huge thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for my spot on the Blog Tour and for arranging my copy via the publisher Unbound.
Spring, 1840. In the Dorset market town of Wimborne Minster, a young choirboy drowns
himself. Soon after, the choirmaster—a belligerent man with a vicious reputation—is found
murdered, in a discovery tainted as much by relief as it is by suspicion. The gaze of the
magistrates falls on four local men, whose decisions will reverberate through the community
for years to come.
So begins the chronicle of Crow Court, unravelling over fourteen delicately interwoven
episodes, the town of Wimborne their backdrop: a young gentleman and his groom run off to
join the army; a sleepwalking cordwainer wakes on his wife’s grave; desperate farmhands
emigrate. We meet the composer with writer’s block; the smuggler; a troupe of actors down
from London; and old Art Pugh, whose impoverished life has made him hard to amuse.
Meanwhile, justice waits…
This is a fabulous debut by the author and it was one that I really enjoyed. It is historical fiction with a mystery surrounding events between 1840 – 1863 set in Wimborne, Dorset. A young choirboy drowns himself and the choirmaster disappears. Rumours about the horrible and vile way the master treats the boys are all around the community. No one knows for sure what happened to the master, but several others have left the country. This adds fuel to fire about who was involved in the disappearance.
This is a slower-paced mystery and a historical fiction story. It deals with some awful actions from the choirmaster. There are some in denial, some think justice may have been served but over the course of the next 23 years, there is always a suspicion hanging over people.
The author has done a great job with this story and I did enjoy the local dialect, a list of these words can be found at the end of the book, but most of them can be worked out from the context they are set in.
This is a story that really involves many people from the local community, you get an insight into certain people’s lives and how they have carried on over the years. The chapters are laid out as the year’s change, so a quick glance will show you how many years have lapsed with each new chapter.
There is a wonderful simmering speculative suspicion throughout this tale and it does have an impact of differing degrees over the various people. The author uses social class and culture to show how the disappearance affects or implicates. The story started with a suicide and a disappearance, it raised its head again towards the end, but, in the middle, it did get lost a bit. While at the time I did wonder about this, now as I write this review up it seems to me that the story just lay dormant for a few years. It is only when other things come to pass that it is reignited.
There are many characters in this story, only a few of them I can honestly say made an impact for me. Others were there and while they did have their roles I didn’t feel any connection to them. There are, however, some good descriptions of the characters and I did like the use of the dialect for the more manual workers, and this was something that I enjoyed a lot.
This is one for those who like a slower-paced more literary style of historical fiction. It has a strong leaning towards the feel of a classic as well. It is a story of a community and of a mystery that spans over two decades. It is one I would happily recommend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Charman was born in Dorset and grew up near Wimborne Minster,
where Crow Court is set. His short stories have appeared in various
anthologies and magazines, including Pangea and Cadenza. Crow Court
is his first novel, which he worked on at the Arvon course at The Hurst in
Shropshire in 2018. Andy lives in Surrey and is available for interview,
comment and events
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