Friday, July 6, 2007

Martin Edwards's "The Arsenic Labyrinth"

Martin Edwards is a prolific crime novelist and story writer. His books and stories include three Lake District mysteries featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett and historian Daniel Kind: The Coffin Trail, The Cipher Garden, and The Arsenic Labyrinth.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to the more recent title and reported the following:
On page 99 of The Arsenic Labyrinth, Hannah Scarlett discusses a mysterious phone message with a local journalist, Tony di Venuto. Hannah is a Detective Chief Inspector, in charge of the Cold Case Review Team in England’s Lake District, and she has been prompted to investigate the mystery of the disappearance, ten years ago, of a young woman called Emma Bestwick. Di Venuto has publicised the case in a newspaper article, but he seems to have an obsessive interest in what happened to Emma. Hannah wonders why the woman’s fate seems to matter so much to him, and whether he knows more about it than he is willing to admit. Di Venuto has been phoned by a man who says that Emma is to be found below the Arsenic Labyrinth, a maze of tunnels in the beautiful yet eerie hills above Coniston Water, all that remains of a nineteenth century poison factory.

Hannah is one of the two main characters in my Lake District Mysteries; The Arsenic Labyrinth follows The Coffin Trail and The Cipher Garden. The other protagonist is Daniel Kind, an Oxford historian who has downshifted to the Lakes to escape the rat race. Both Hannah and Daniel are fascinated, as well as haunted, by the past, and although they are in relationships with other people, they are growing closer. That thread of the series isn’t hinted at on page 99, which is all about the mystery, and plot development, rather than the depiction of character and the atmospheric setting, features prominent elsewhere in the book. But creating a complex puzzle with a satisfying solution at the end is important to me, so to that extent page 99 bears out Ford Madox Ford’s eccentric but intriguing claim.
Visit Martin Edwards's website to learn more about The Arsenic Labyrinth.

--Marshal Zeringue