Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

First Line: On a spring day in 1612, a mill owner called Richard Baldwin, in the Pendle Forest of Lancashire chased two local women off his land, calling them "witches and whores", threatening to "burn the one and hang the other", and, in doing so, set in motion events that led to the imprisonment, trial and execution of nine women on the charge of murder by witchcraft: the infamous Pendle Witch Trials.
As a WPC, Florence Lovelady's career was made when she found and convicted coffin-maker Larry Grassbrook of a series of child murders in a Lancashire village. Thirty years later, she's now Assistant Commissioner, and Larry-- who spent the rest of his life in prison-- is now dead. 
But children have begun dying in the same way. Is there a copycat killer on the loose, or did Lovelady get it wrong all those years ago? When her own son goes missing under similar circumstances, not only does the case get reopened, it gets personal.
I first became acquainted with Sharon Bolton's talent through her series featuring Thames River Police Officer Lacey Flint. Not only did I love Flint's character, but I also loved the mysteries Bolton crafted-- and the respect for the River Thames that she fostered in me. So it's not surprising that I picked up The Craftsman. It did not disappoint.  

Bolton's retrospective of Lovelady's career over thirty years gives readers a chance to see how much (or how little) things have changed in the police force. It also shows Lovelady's strengths as an investigator. In addition, the Lancashire village setting is a character every bit as strong as Lovelady herself. (Bolton's a winner at crafting atmospheric settings.) When the killings begin again, the powers that be want everything hushed up. And when it looks as though Lovelady might have been wrong thirty years ago, the powers that be begin to turn on her. As one of the villagers tells her, "That's the patriarchy for you. It's what men do when they're afraid and they feel helpless and out of control. They turn on the outsider, usually a woman, and they blame her for everything that's going wrong. You've become the witch, my dear!" By this time, readers are fully on Lovelady's side and want her to find the answers quickly. 

There's already enough reason for Lovelady to be fully invested in finding out the truth, but when her own son goes missing, I had to smile at her reaction: "These people have no idea, no idea at all, what they unleashed when they went after my son." Now that's my kind of character-- and one of the main reasons why I enjoy Bolton's work so much. I learned that the author has written another book featuring Lovelady. It's a sure thing that I'll be reading it (The Buried).

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton
eISBN: 9781250300041
St. Martin's Press © 2018
eBook, 432 pages
Police Procedural, #1 Florence Lovelady
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


  1. I was thinking of the Lacey Flint novels too, Cathy, when I first saw the title of this post. This book does sound good. I like the past/present connection, and the book sounds tense and suspenseful. I'm not usually one (at all!) for a book about serial killers, but it sounds as though it's the puzzle, more than the actual murders, that's the focus of this one.

  2. I also like the Lacey Flint books and it has been a number of years since I read one of those (think I didn't read all of them yet). I haven't read this one either. Putting Sharon Bolton on my list again.

    1. I enjoy her so much that I can only blame the magpie in me for letting her fall off my list!

  3. Bolton's Lacey Flint series is my favorite! I've read most of her other books, but weirdly not this one. I don't know how it slipped through the cracks. Thanks for reminding me of it. :D


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