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The Serpent Pool (Lake District Mystery) Hardcover – February 1, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The musty, sedate world of old books provides the backdrop for a series of gruesome murders in Edwards's absorbing fourth Lake District mystery (after 2007's The Arsenic Labyrinth). Rare book dealers prove an unexpectedly randy lot as they are swept under by sexual undercurrents of obsession, infidelity, and jealousy. Inevitably, desire proves the undoing of one victim after another, as the sociopath responsible, obsessed by Thomas De Quincey's tract On Murder, fulfills his destiny... to make nightmares come true. Leave it to Det. Chief Insp. Hannah Scarlett to find the link between a cold case, the murder of 25-year-old aspiring writer Bethany Friend (or was it suicide?), found drowned in a shallow pool six years earlier, and two active investigations, though not before letting her own conflicted desires get the better of her when her current lover, a secondhand bookseller, falls under suspicion. Hannah's odd failure to pursue a line of questioning with another suspect also spells trouble. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Book lovers, especially fans of nineteenth-century writer and opium addict Thomas de Quincey, will enjoy the latest Lake District mystery. DCI Hannah Scarlett reopens another cold case, this one involving the drowning death, seven years ago, of a young woman. But Hannah is distracted by her personal life, especially by her rocky relationship with book dealer Marc Amos, who is himself rather upset over the death of one his best customers (whose murder-by-fire opens the novel). Meanwhile, Hannah’s friend and sometime sidekick, historian Daniel Kind, is deep into a new book on de Quincey (who was among the first writers to consider murder as the basis of a literary art form), but he, too, soon becomes distracted: his sister thinks she has accidentally killed her lover, who also happens to be a book collector. In his usual leisurely but always compelling way, Edwards pulls together these various plot threads, rewarding the patient reader with a story that is complex and intellectually stimulating. Certainly the most labyrinthine of the Lake District novels, but perhaps also the best. --David Pitt
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Product Details

  • Series: Lake District Mystery (Book 4)
  • Hardcover: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; 1 edition (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590585933
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590585931
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,428,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Edwards is an award-winning crime writer whose fourth and most recent Lake District Mystery, featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind, is The Serpent Pool, published in February 2010. Earlier books in the series are The Coffin Trail (short-listed for the Theakston's prize for best British crime novel of 2006), The Cipher Garden and The Arsenic Labyrinth (short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year award in 2008.) He has written eight novels about lawyer Harry Devlin, the first of which, All the Lonely People, was short-listed for the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger for the best first crime novel of the year. In addition he has written a stand-alone novel of psychological suspense, Take My Breath Away, and a much acclaimed novel featuring Dr Crippen, Dancing for the Hangman. The latest Devlin novel, Waterloo Sunset, appeared in 2008. He completed Bill Knox's last book, The Lazarus Widow. He has published a collection of short stories, Where Do You Find Your Ideas? and other stories; 'Test Drive' was short-listed for the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2006, while 'The Bookbinder's Apprentice' won the same Dagger in 2008. A well-known commentator on crime fiction, he has edited 16 anthologies and published eight non-fiction books, including a study of homicide investigation, Urge to Kill .In 2008 he was elected to membership of the prestigious Detection Club. In his spare time he is a partner in a law firm and blogs daily at 'Do You Write Under Your Own Name?'

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K. A. Smith on February 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
One of the unsolved crimes that always worried DCI Hannah Scarlett's former boss Ben Kind was the drowning of Bethany Friend in the Serpent Pool, a shallow lake not very far from where Hannah and her partner second hand bookseller Marc Amos now live. Bethany's death went down on the books as suicide, but Ben Kind always thought she had been murdered.

DCI Hannah Scarlett is head of Cumbria's Cold Case Review Team, but as so often happens, cold cases may have links to current ones, although these are not be obvious at first.

The shocking death of one of Marc's best customers, burned to death in a converted boathouse filled with priceless books, reveals connections between Marc and Bethany Friend, and Hannah wonders why he has never told her that he knew Bethany. The seed of mistrust, ever present in long term relationships, grows when Marc turns to an attractive colleague for solace. Just to complicate matters, Daniel Kind, Hannah's historian friend (and son of Ben) returns from overseas and gets in touch with Hannah.

THE SERPENT POOL is one of those stories is characterised by careful groundwork that then gathers breathtaking pace in the second half. I enjoyed the book very much. My rating: 4.8.

It is #4 in Edwards' Lake District Mysteries series, and while for those who have read earlier titles it is another very satisfying instalment, those who have not read earlier ones need not worry about whether they have missed too much of the backstory. I think Martin Edwards treads that fine line marvellously well. Those new to this series will find themselves hunting for the earlier titles. Among good news relayed earlier this year was that the first, COFFIN TRAIL, is being re-issued.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Todd Hurley on May 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
When I first received this advance copy I was excited to get into a new series by an author that was new to me. As I read the blurb on the back cover I was initially worried about what I was about to read. Maybe it was just the way the blurb was written, but it was sounding very confusing to me right at the outset. There were a plethora of characters that all seemed to have their own plot lines. It was confusing right from the outset as to how, if at all, any of these stories related to each other.
As our story begins, we are introduced to our protagonist, DCI Hannah Scarlett, who works on the Cold Case Squad in England's Lake District. She has been tasked with finding out whether Emily Friend, a girl found drowned in mere inches of water in the isolated "Serpent Pool". She needs to find out whether it was suicide or murder, and to finally give a sense of peace and justice to her dying mother.
As the case is re-opened, the confusion started for me. Like any good police procedural, the investigating officer must come with their own set of problems. DCI Scarlett doesn't disappoint. She's faced with adjusting to a new sergeant, who carries a reputation for causing trouble and being difficult to work with; she's just moved into a new house in the Lake District close to the Serpent Pool; and new cause to doubt her partner - Marc Amos, a second hand book seller.
It wouldn't be normal if Marc didn't have his own problems. We know that his business is suffering from dwindling finances and the death of one of his best customers, George Saffell. Just to top it all off, he is finding himself drawn to the attractive and enigmatic Cassie Weston, one of his employees in the shop.
As these circumstances are set up for us, the main action of the story begins.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By chico on June 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
I did not feel that Serpent Pool was up to the standard of the previous two in the series. Hannah's character was weak (I could hardly believe she was a DCI)and the characters all sounded like each other with no distinct voices. There were editing errors (scissors later turned into a knife) and overall it was unsatisfying. Any readers looking for interesting female protagonists and great (and creepy) stories should try S.J. Bolton - her three stand alone mysteries are awesome!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Over six years ago in the Lake District, Emily Friend drowned in the Serpent Pool. Her grieving mother asked a simple question of law enforcement back then: how does a person drown in water that is less than eighteen inches? The police could not find a reasonable answer to her query.

With Emily's mom dying, DCI Hannah Scarlett of the Cumbria Constabulary Cold Cases decides to officially reopen that case in order to provide closure to the grief stricken dying woman. DS Greg Wharf is assigned to her; he comes with a notorious reputation, but seems competent. Meanwhile George Saffell dies in a blaze that also destroys his valuable book collection. Soon afterward Stuart Wagg is found dead in a well. Hannah visits Louise Kind, sister to the DCI's former lover historian Daniel Kind as the woman lived with Wagg. The only ties between Emily, Bethany, George, and Stuart are Hannah's current lover, bookseller Marc Amos who seems more interested in his new hire Cassie Weston than in the DCI, and Thomas De Quincey who died in 1859.

The latest Lake District cold case police procedural (see The Cipher Garden and The Coffin Trail) is a terrific intelligent whodunit as each step taken by Hannah and George leads to a deeper convolution to their original mystery. The enjoyable story line also pays homage to De Quincey (see Confessions of an Opium-Eater; and On Murder, Considered As One of the Fine Arts). Although the climax is over the top of Scafell Pike, fans will relish this entertaining English cozy.

Harriet Klausner
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