MYSTERY

Secret Mischief

Severn House. (Cragg & Fidelis Series, Bk. 7). May 2021. 256p. ISBN 9780727890702. $28.99. M
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In 1746, farmer Richard Giggleswick sends for coroner Titus Cragg to come to Chimneystacks Farm for an inquest. When Titus arrives, he learns that the farmer wants him to examine his boar, which has been shot dead. Titus refuses, but two days later he is called back: Giggleswick has been shot and killed in the same spot. Titus tells the local constable that it’s murder, and the motive is love, money, or pride. When he hears from a lawyer, Ambrose Parr, Titus learns the farmer was part of a tontine agreement from over 20 years earlier. Seven young people had contributed money to a prize; the last person alive would win all the money. Several are already dead when the book opens, but one by one, the remaining participants begin to die. Titus and Dr. Luke Fidelis investigate, but they’re blocked at every turn by Parr and a judge related to one of the tontine’s surviving parties. Titus despairs of ever finding the killer, but the cynical Doctor Fidelis uncovers the surprising truth.
VERDICT Blake’s seventh “Fidelis & Cragg” mystery (following Death and the Chevalier) is slow-paced, with a startling conclusion. Readers who enjoy historical and legal perspectives will appreciate the careful attention to detail in a story showing how the accused had to prove their innocence.
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