About the Book
Cornwall, 1845. Shilly has always felt a connection to happenings that are not of this world, a talent that has proved invaluable when investigating dark deeds with master of disguise, Anna Drake. The women opened a detective agency with help from their newest member and investor, Mathilda, but six long months have passed without a single case to solve and tensions are growing.
It is almost a relief when a man is found dead along the Morwenstow coast and the agency is sought out to investigate. There are suspicions that wreckers plague the shores, luring ships to their ruin with false lights – though nothing has ever been proved. Yet with the local talk of sirens calling victims to the sea to meet their end, could something other-worldly be responsible for the man’s death?
Format: ebook, hardcover (288 pp.) Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 19th September 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find The Mermaid’s Call on Goodreads
The Mermaid’s Call is the third book in Katherine Stansfield’s ‘Cornish Mystery’ series, following on from Falling Creatures (which I’ve still to read) and The Magpie Tree, my review of which you can read here. The Mermaid’s Call can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone, although it does contain brief references to events in the earlier two books. However, there are still plenty of secrets to be learned – especially about Anna Drake – and even the book’s narrator, Shilly, doesn’t know everything about Anna’s past meaning the reader doesn’t feel at a disadvantage or, even if they do, it’s a position they share with Shilly! Personally, I love that there are hints of things still to be discovered about both characters – I hope in future books in the series. Incidentally, in her guest post on my blog last year, Katherine Stansfield addressed the challenge of a writing a sequel and whether they should look back or forward.
I mentioned that Shilly is the book’s narrator and she fulfils this duty in her own distinctive style. Shilly has experienced traumatic events in her life and battled demons of her own but Anna is the real woman of mystery with secrets not only in her past but also, it appears, in the present. Shilly and Anna make an unconventional detective partnership to which each bring their own strengths, although Anna is very much in charge.
Anna’s approach is all about collecting facts and evidence, establishing alibis and questioning suspects, helped by her expertise at adopting disguises in which she invariably poses as a man, an opportunity she seems to relish. As Shilly notes, ‘Men’s clothes gave her something else. Something I wished I could give her’. What Shilly describes as her ability to ‘look askance’ means her approach is more founded on impressions, instinct and even visions bordering on the supernatural. The relationship between Anna and Shilly goes beyond just a partnership in detecting crime though – at least, that’s definitely what Shilly desires. And, for both of them, the detective agency is also a way, as women, to exert their independence and identity in a world controlled by men.
The case they are engaged to investigate takes them to Morwenstow and the curious household of Parson Hawker which is not only filled with cats and dogs and a rampaging pig but also a secret locked room – surely a requirement of any mystery novel! I was delighted to learn from the author’s historical note that the Parson Hawker in the book is based on a real life character which certainly goes to support the statement that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.
In my review of The Magpie Tree I wrote that the book ‘ticked all the boxes for me as a historical mystery: intriguing story line, interesting and engaging central characters, great period detail and atmospheric location’. I had the same feeling on turning the last page of The Mermaid’s Call. A story of love, secrets, betrayal and revenge, sprinkled with a hint of the supernatural and full of twists and turns, The Mermaid’s Call (and indeed the whole ‘Cornish Mystery’ series) is highly recommended for fans of historical crime mysteries.
I received an advance review copy courtesy of Allison & Busby via NetGalley.
In three words: Compelling, atmospheric, mystery
Try something similar: Wrecker by Noel O’Reilly
About the Author
Katherine Stansfield is a multi-genre novelist and poet who grew up on Bodmin Moor and now lives in Cardiff. Her ‘Cornish Mysteries’ crime series is set in the 1840s and features unorthodox detective duo Anna Drake and Shilly Williams. The pair investigate crimes based on real events in Cornish history and involve a good dash of local folklore. Think ‘Sherlock Holmes meets the X Files meets Daphne du Maurier’.
Katherine is also one half of the writing partnership DK Fields, with her partner David Towsey. Head of Zeus will publish their political fantasy novel Widow’s Welcome, the first in ‘The Tales of Fenest’ trilogy, in August 2019. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)
Connect with Katherine