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So far I’ve read all the Sharon Bolton books in order, and I was eagerly anticipating The Craftsman‘s release. And wow what a book this was!
The book’s main protagonist is Assistant Commissioner Florence ‘Flossie’ Lovelady, who tells her story from two points of view: the present (end of the 1990s) and the past (end of the 1960s).
We first meet her as she is standing at a funeral where apparently people hated the dead guy. There are no flowers around the coffin, and the people that are there aren’t shedding all that many tears. This already creates a curiosity in the readers as they want to find out what is the deal with that guy.
Soon, we learn that the funeral is for Larry Glassbrook, a convicted killer who was found guilty of murdering three teenagers some thirty years ago when Florence was still working at the Sabden police station.
Now, she is back into town, this time with her teenage son, Ben, who accompanied her, also soon to be followed by her husband.
And then we are transported to the past, where most of the story takes place. Florence was a new member of the local PD, and, while reading the pages, we get to learn the sexist atmosphere of the 60s when women were not looked upon seriously to do a proper job as cops.
The only thing her male colleagues wanted of her was to make them tea. And when Flossie, as they called her, showed them that there is some brain in her pretty head of hers with some seriously good ideas, people became quite distant of her.
I grew up in the 70s and even then the situation at work regarding women was not all that better. You always had to be pretty, hide your intelligence and leave all the heavy mental work to the men around you.
In fact, back then women were called geeks if they showed publicly too much mental capacity, and it was said that geeks would never find a suitable husband. What male-dominated fun times those were!
The book starts out as a creepy, but still straight-forward crime mystery with plenty of suspects to go around. As the story progressed, we got slowly transported to a slightly supernatural environment. It was interesting to see the author experimenting with this medium. It left me quite intrigued, and I am hoping that Sharon Bolton will continue to explore this area in her writing.
If you don’t like supernatural tales, don’t worry; this is not one as such. However, you do get a coven of witches with real powers, and whether they are trying to help the case or undermine the investigation, you’ll have to read the book to see.
I loved the book and found it slightly creepy (in a good way – I love creepy books that are not actually horror novels). The atmosphere was perfectly spine-chilling.
Also I loved the major twists and turns the book offered, especially towards the end. That last twist – I didn’t see it coming. It made me sad and angry at the same time. You think you know people, and fate shows you that you don’t know them at all.
The story often switches from the present to the past, and that interweaving of the timelines is craftily done. These are two threads that you must follow if you want to get to the big reveal at the end.
Except for a few tiny grammatical errors, the writing was smooth-flowing and it fit the topic perfectly. Sharon Bolton has a great way with words and knows how to insert you in that dark atmosphere where you forget about time, about eating or sleeping until you finish the very last page.
While I love the Lacey Flint series, this standalone book is definitely up there with the best.