Book review: Hawke’s Tor by E.V.Thompson

As daylight fades on the slopes of Bodmin Moor in 1861, a young woman carrying a baby sets out on a secret assignation...

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 15th December 2011, 6:00 am

Minutes later, she is battered to death and her two-month-old son abducted. Two police officers from the fledgling Cornish Constabulary will have to unearth a series of dark secrets if they are to find her killer.

Popular author E.V.Thompson, who has written over 30 novels, is thoroughly at home amidst the dramatic scenery of Cornwall and his two wily Victorian detectives, Supt Amos Hawke and Sergeant Tom Churchyard, make a welcome return in a murder mystery full of intrigue, surprises and more than a little romance.

As always, Thompson paints a fascinating and atmospheric portrait of 19th century Cornwall with its tight-knit, insular communities, social claustrophobia and magnificent landscape.

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There are suspects galore, a tangled web of lies and deceit to unravel and plenty of red herrings to keep readers guessing.

Kerensa Morgan is married to Horace Morgan, estate steward to local landowner and magistrate Colonel Trethewy who wields much influence in the Launceston area of Cornwall.

Morgan is a Welshman living in the tiny moorland village of Trelyn. He’s twice Kerensa’s age and has never been accepted by the locals who regard him as ‘a foreigner.’ There’s also little love for Kerensa whose ‘flings’ with a succession of married men have often caused tongues to wag.

But her brutal murder with a lethal block of granite near Hawk’s Tor was totally undeserved ... surely?

Some of her neighbours reckon Kerensa had it coming so Hawke and Churchyard will have to tread carefully as they investigate her death and the disappearance of baby Albert.

Neighbours often heard the Morgans arguing because of her frequent ‘trips’ out, the landlord of the nearby pub is rumoured to have been more than friendly with Kerensa and what is the connection to local gypsy Jed Smith who deals in ‘unwanted babies’?

The answer could well lie with Smith’s beautiful half-gypsy daughter Zillah whose appearance in the enquiries has disturbing consequences for the lovelorn Tom Churchyard.

Hawke and Churchyard are a classy detective duo – the superintendent is wise, worldly and happily married while his sergeant is an experienced sleuth from London who has yet to find the woman who will make him truly happy.

Well plotted and paced with precision, Hawk’s Tor is a whodunit to savour...

(Robert Hale, hardback, £18.99)