The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge (Rachel Savernake Golden Age Mysteries, 3)

Image of The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge (Rachel Savernake Golden Age Mysteries, 3)
Release Date: 
August 1, 2023
Poisoned Pen Press
Reviewed by: 

Eugenics, seances, disappearances, and multiple murders. What more could one want in a mystery?

Martin Edwards’ new story, The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge, is the second in his Rachel Savernake mystery series, but for the first several chapters of the story, Rachel does not appear except as a reference.

It’s early in the 20th century and Nell Fagan, a freelance journalist approaching middle age and ready for a real journalistic find, chases a 300-year-old missing person’s story.

As Nell settles herself in the small village of Blackstone Fell, she travels under a pseudonym, for fear she will turn off sources if they know her real reason for being in the village. And it’s not to uncover the facts about the disappearance in 1606 of Edmund Mellor, nor the most recent similar disappearance of Alfred Lejeune, a mere 30 years earlier. Her reason is much more current.

Edwards takes the reader on a long journey with Nell, not sharing Nell’s real reason for taking residence in the village. When her disguise is discovered by Judith Royle, the wife of the local pastor, Quintus Royle, Nell is warned to leave town, but does not take that advice. Nell now decides she needs to seek help from Rachel Savernake, freelance detective, to really solve the mystery.

Here Edwards draws a clear picture of Rachel as Nell comments to Jacob Flint, journalist, “‘An ice queen, that’s what she is. I’ve never met anyone like her. I’d put nothing past Rachel Savernake. Softly spoken she may be, but those eyes! They gaze into your very soul. . . . She’s obscenely rich and as ruthless as her father. I don’t think she plays by any rules but her own.’” Such a description leaves the reader wanting to know more about Rachel and how she will play into this story.

In a side trip, Edwards takes the reader into the supernatural. Jacob’s editor is embroiled in a challenge to prove the fraudulence of Ottilie Curle, “London’s most renowned medium. As far as the Clarion was concerned, she was also a fraud with an eye for the main chance.” Nell convinces Jacob to attend a séance to use this opportunity to prove the medium a fraud, thus endearing himself to his editor. Nell sees this as her opportunity to get Jacob to act as go between to convince Rachel to help with the Blackstone mystery. Jacob is uncovered as a fraud, and the séance is a disaster.

Jacob, however, does commit to bring Nell’s research to Rachel’s attention. Rachel’s initial reaction is to reject Nell’s request, but upon learning more about Nell’s research, she agrees. Rachel brings her staff—Cliff, Hettie, and Martha Trueman—into the fray. But upon arriving at Blackstone, they find that Nell has died in a terrible accident—crushed to death by a large bolder in a cave. The death is judged to be an accident, but Rachel suspects otherwise.

Now it is up to Rachel and her team to uncover two disappearances and one suspicious death. Here Edwards introduces Margaret (Peggy) Needham, who turns out to be Nell’s aunt, in search of the truth about Nell’s death. Rachel and Peggy form a partnership to learn what really happened.

The number of characters keeps building up, as does the number of deaths and a curious sanatorium run by Professor Sambrook and his two children, Denzil and Daphne. Major Huckeby lost his wife to death while she was at the sanatorium; Dr. Corrodus is not the best of doctors, but he is the only one serving Blackstone and the Blackstone Sanatorium.

It is now up to Rachel to determine which deaths are accidents, which are just run-of-the-mill normal deaths, and which are murder. It doesn’t take her long to determine that murder is the number one cause.

The problem is now to syphon through the possible culprits and determine who is the real guilty party . . . or is it parties?

Not long after Nell’s death, Edwards brings us two more deaths and one disappearance—Judith Royle and Quintus Royle, a murder/suicide; and Harold Lejeune (Judith’s lover and the original heir to everything Blackstone) who is missing.

Soon Rachel determines that Nell’s death was no accident. As she delves further into the details searching for the truth, she learns the truth about Nell’s reason for being at Blackstone. She was hired by Vernon Murray, a man whose mother died at Blackstone Sanatorium. Murray is convinced his mother’s young husband is responsible, but he can’t prove it without Nell’s help. Victor dies in a freak accident—creating another reason for Rachel to delve into the small community of Blackstone.

The bodies are piling up. The sanatorium is becoming a veritable death house. Three more deaths at the sanatorium rise to the surface thus providing another mystery that Rachel must uncover. She soon learns that the owners of the sanatorium support the concept of eugenics. Is this the cause of these deaths?

Between eugenics and the supernatural, Rachel has her hands full as she digs further into the ever-mounting number of deaths in the small village. As she puts together the puzzle of clues, she brings Otillie, the medium, into the fray, in order to resolve the question of these deaths.

Although it is sometimes difficult to keep the number and names of the characters—dead and alive—straight, Edwards does a good job of tying up all the loose ends he has created.

The beginning of this story is sometimes fuzzy because the protagonist does not appear for several chapters. But as the story grows, the issues tend to