The Witch at Wayside Cross

By Lisa Tuttle

Rating: 3 stars

Picking up where the first book left off, this novel sees our intrepid detectives with a dead man in their hall. The police chalk it down to natural causes, but they aren’t so sure. The trail leads them to a small village in Norfolk and more mysteries sprout up as they investigate.

I didn’t really enjoy this one as much as its predecessor. There was no single villain with the presence or charisma of Mr Chase and the three mysteries never really gelled that well for me. I’m also surprised that the discussion of Lane’s abilities were never mentioned at all, given their importance in the first. In fact, there was very little here to count as supernatural. Yes, there was talk of witches and magic killings, but who needs magic when you’ve got a knowledge of botanicals? And the whole subplot of the fair folk kidnapping Maria’s child just seemed to fizzle out.

I found Di Lane less engaging as a protagonist in this one too. She seemed to miss obvious clues and was generally a bit slower on the uptake than I would have expected of her. I also found Jesperson slightly more annoying as well.

Despite being negative in this review, I still read the book avidly and, for the most part, enjoyed it. I’ll look out for the next book in the series, but won’t jump at it.

Book details

ISBN: 9780857054555
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Year of publication: 2017

The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief

By Lisa Tuttle

Rating: 4 stars

We first encounter Miss Lane on a train from Scotland, bound for London, having just abandoned her erstwhile friend Miss Fox while investigating a haunted house, after discovering signs of the latter perpetrating a fraud. Back in London, needing a job, Miss Lane sees an advert for an assistant to a consulting detective. The rest, as they say, is history. This is a fun twist on the Holmes genre, with Miss Lane working much more alongside her comrade, Mr Jesperson, than Watson did. It also draws on the fascination with the paranormal that existed in the Victorian era, as the duo try to discern the connection between a sleepwalker and the mediums who are going missing in London.

Miss Lane (who really doesn’t like her first name) is a nice character, who I enjoyed spending time with. She’s very aware of her position as an active working partner in an era where women mostly didn’t do that. Her past doesn’t come up much, but what is mentioned is interesting and will hopefully be expanded in future books. Jesperson is an interesting character too. A consulting detective who lives with his mum and who still has the occasional strop. He’s certainly no Holmes, but he’s got much more personality than Holmes, even if it is occasionally childlike.

The villain of the piece is a truly horrible creation. Several times, I wanted to put the book down and wipe my hands, since they felt dirty just holding the book in his scenes. His pleasure in controlling and humiliating his victims, especially the women, sent shivers of revulsion down my spine. What’s depressing is that someone gaining pleasure from power over others is entirely an everyday occurrence (albeit in this case, taken to extremes).

The last chapter takes us right into the next mystery for the intrepid duo, and hopefully more discussion of the history of both our central characters (and maybe some discussion about what happened with Miss Fox, given that following her reappearance in the story, the original reason for Miss Lane’s flight wasn’t discussed at all).

Book details

ISBN: 9781784299620
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Year of publication: 2016

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