In 1923 flush with the success of their last sleuthing escapade Major Alasdair Charters, a blind WW1 veteran, and former intelligence officer and his aristocrat wife The Honourable Melissa, accept an invitation to a country house party on Somerset Levels in Winter.
There they find a dysfunctional family all living in a huge old house on a hill. Overnight the storm brings with it the floodwaters and the house becomes surrounded and cut off from rescue just as a murderer begins to stalk the residents. An exciting murder mystery in the Golden Age tradition.
Will our sleuths discover hidden secrets and unmask the murderer before anyone else is killed?
Anyone who has followed The Shelf for a while will know that I love a good mystery novel, especially if it encapsulates that ‘Golden Age’ feeling. So I was immediately interested when I was invited to be part of the blog tour for Blind Pool, the second novel in Vicki Goldie’s 1920s era Charters’ Mysteries series.
Blind Pool is a mystery with a difference. One of the main characters – Major Alasdair Charters – is a veteran of the trenches and was blinded whilst on active duty. Chapters told from his perspective therefore focus on other the information being received by his other senses – sound, touch, small, taste and, possibly most importantly, atmosphere. A note at the beginning of the novel explains that author Vicki Goldie’s husband is blind and I feel this familiarity really comes across in the novel, which explores both the perceptions that people have about Alasdair as a result of his disability, and the way in which Alasdair is determined to push at those boundaries. Whilst Blind Pool does not shy away from the challenges and frustrations of living with blindness, I found the character of Alasdair – and the chapters written from his perspective – extremely interesting, and really got a sense of the ways in which the world can be navigated without sight.
Alistair’s wife, The Honourable Melissa Charters, is the second part of our detective duo and is an equally lively and interesting character. An aristocrat who holds socialist ideas about class hierarchies, Melissa is entertaining and perceptive, if a little naïve. Her liveliness is an nice contrast to Alasdair’s somewhat stoic narrative and, once again, I feel that Vicki Goldie’s own experiences have come to the fore as Melissa struggles to balance the joy she feels in Alasdair’s regained independence (thanks to Sheba, his newly-trained guide dog) and the concern she has that something might happen to her husband if she isn’t around to be his eyes.
During the course of the novel, both Alasdair and Melissa are called upon to use their particular talents to solve an intriguing series of mysteries that lie at the heart of one very unhappy family. Nestled amidst the Somerset levels, Chudley House is the imposing but unhappy home of the Gauntlet family. Summoned for a weekend by Davinia Gauntlet – one of Melissa’s old friends – Melissa and Alasdair soon find themselves with a corpse on their hands when Colonel William Gauntlet, the head of the household, washes up dead in the moat with a nasty crack to the back of the head. To make matters worse, the household has been cut off from any aid by rising floodwaters across the levels. So when more bodies start piling up, it’s up to Alasdair and Melissa to discover the culprit before it is too late.
As with many Golden Age style mysteries, Blind Pool is the classic case of a limited number of suspects (in this case, the extended members of the Gauntlet family, their visiting friends, and their servants), an isolated location (a manor house cut off from the outside), and a pair of determined sleuths. The resulting investigation and denouement is unlikely to surprise fans of the genre but the unique challenges and insights that arise as a result of Alasdair’s blindness do give the novel a niche that makes it stand out from other modern tales on the genre. Blind Pool is also a quick read – the plot rattles along nicely and there are some good old-fashioned red herrings as well as an appropriate number of twists to keep the pages turning.
Despite being the second in the series, Blind Pool reads perfectly well as a standalone novel. There are some references to the events of the previous novel but nothing that would spoil that if you were to choose to go back and read it, and the mystery within Blind Pool itself is completely self-contained.
All in all, Blind Pool was a quick and enjoyable read with a pair of likeable and interesting sleuths whose unique perspectives add an extra dimension to their investigations. Whilst it’s not going to convert anyone who doesn’t already read this genre, fans of historical mysteries looking for an intriguing mystery and relatable sleuths should look no further than Blind Pool – and may wish to consider investigating the rest of The Charters’ Mysteries series for themselves too!
Blind Pool by Vicki Goldie is published by Victoria Press and is available now from all good bookshops and online retailers including the Victorina Press Online Store (where there is currently a bundle deal on books 1&2 in the Charters Mysteries Series), and Waterstones.
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 07 November 2020 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.
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