Picture: Carole Burns on the left and Katherine Stansfield on the right
I actually met Katherine Stansfield last week, as part of our writers in conversation event at Southampton University. For our course we had to read the second book in her Cornish mystery series ‘The Magpie Tree’. The first book is called ‘Falling Creatures. Although Katherine said this book can be read on its own, I think it would have been more beneficial to have read the first book first.
In ‘The Magpie Tree’ the two ladies Shilly and Anna are investigating the disappearance of a young boy. Sir Vivian, a wealthy land owner and magistrate employs the two ladies to find a young boy that went missing in the woods. His fragile, pregnant wife is very worried and stressed about the incident. He lets them stay in the summer house in the woods near the waterfall. There are also two foreign women, that also life in the woods, who are said to be witches and everybody beliefs that they are responsible for the missing bouts death. But things are never quite as simple as they appear to be…
It took me a while to get into the story of the book, as I mentioned before, it would have been better to have read the first novel first. The book is very much about the power of women. Shilly and Anna are in a relationship. Which for the time the book is set in, would have been outrageous. The book is very carefully set up and really well researched. It is set in 1844, a time were women would have had very little or no rights at all, other than to be married and to have children. For two women to be ‘private investigators’ would have been unusual, or even unheard of. But the story is carefully set up and it makes sense why the two women are there to investigate the disappearance of the child. To start with I found it annoying that they were in a revaluation ship, but it is not ‘in the readers face’. There are just subtle hinds. The way the wood is set up is very good, it takes on its very own role, like a separate character, with its own temperament.
I can highly recommend the book. It is a mixture of Daphne du Maurer meets Sherlock Holmes and ‘The Birds’.