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…
What I Thought:
I love reading books with a local slant – I don’t know if it’s just me, but I get a real buzz when I am able to recognise where the characters are as I read along.
Although Andy Charman’s Crow Court is a historical novel that takes place in 1840s Wimborne, so much of today’s Wimborne is recognisable from his descriptions – new buildings and houses may have sprung up, but places like the Minster, the Square and Walford Bridge are still very much the landmarks they would have been then. In this respect, the place setting was excellent and I was immediately taken in to the novel.
Andy Charman’s approach to this novel is quite interesting as the main plot is that of a mystery novel – a young choir boy takes his own life and the Choirmaster disappears – but instead of focusing on a short period of time in which the mystery is resolved, the novel takes the form of shorter vignettes that allow us to see the repercussions of these terrible events over the next twenty years.
Although we find out what happened by the end of the book, that is almost the least important thing, as each story allows us to look into the lives of these interconnected residents, from lords and ladies to farmhands, and see how one shocking event can cause ripples throughout a community for many years.
I thought each episode of this book was beautifully written and structured – it was clear how each piece of the puzzle fit together, and yet any of these stories could stand up on its own.
Alongside the local connection, I appreciated the use of Dorset dialect (who knew a Sturminster accent was different to a Wimborne accent??) and I am always a big fan of a glossary (thank you!). The local dialect was all clearly researched in detail and the benefits of doing your homework is evident here!
From the gorgeous cover design, to the compelling characters within, this book was a definite winner for me…
Crow Court is published by Unbound.
To find out more about Andy Charman and his work, you can catch up with him on Twitter.
This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of Crow Court – why not have a look at some of the other blogs and Instagrammers taking part below?
Please note: I was sent this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.