The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton reviewed

The Craftsman Book Cover The Craftsman
Sharon Bolton
Orion Publishing Group
April 4, 2018

Catching him will make her career - and change her forever. 

August, 1999 
On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.

June, 1969 
13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.

August, 1999 
As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks' old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy - one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?

I’ve read most of Sharon Bolton‘s books now and always enjoyed them. Having some knowledge of the location and the Pendle witches, The Craftsman appealed to me. The funeral of the local undertaker, Glassbrook, who had been arrested and imprisoned due to the work of Constable Florence Lovelady, sets the scene. The now AC Florence Lovelady, who had lodged with the family at the time, attends the funeral – it is dark and troubling. What happened back then and was the outcome really the correct one?

The book then switches to the time of the original crime – 1969. It retells the story with a 1960s feel to it which worked well for me. We follow Flossie (WPC) as the story of missing children gradually unfolds. The story is often dark and not for the faint hearted. The prejudices of the era – the late sixties – comes over clearly and is done effectively for me. I found that the mundanity of Florence’s life as a WPC at the time contrasted vividly with the incidents and discoveries of the 1969 case.

The characters in this story worked well for me and I found myself almost completely engaged with Florence. Her son, Ben, is with her in the present day part of the book and I enjoyed their interactions. The other characters are fine though none of them fully engaged me.

Reading The Craftsman you quickly remember just how well Sharon Bolton writes. The pace is excellent and the story well imagined. In amongst the darkness there are moments of humour. I was just thinking this wasn’t going anywhere when it did… Even then I’m not sure how much I can honestly say it surprised me. On the one hand I really loved the character of Florence, on the other I’m not quite sure the whole “witches” thing worked that well for me. However I certainly had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up at times. I did enjoy the “craftsman” – I would have been happy if more had been made of that aspect of the book.

Overall good writing and a good story, I hope I will be reading books from this author for some time to come.  I’ve read and reviewed Sharon Bolton’s previous book – see here.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review