July 1829, Worcestershire. Constable Thomas Potts, dealing with the possible break-up of his marriage, welcomes the distraction when a body is found in a haystack, the body of a woman dressed in men’s clothing. But terror strikes the village when people claim to have seen a white-shrouded figure in the vicinity of the haystack. The village has a legend, that of the Devil’s Monk who rises once in a while to wreak havoc, causing death and mayhem, and it seems that it has returned once again.
A second death soon follows and as panic starts to take hold, a suspect is arrested. But Potts is unsure that things are quite as straightforward as they seem. As he struggles with the fact that his wife might be lost to him forever, events take a surprising turn before the truth comes out.
This is the sixth book in the Thomas Potts series, but the first for me. Often a problem, jumping into a series midway, but it’s not really a problem here. Things are laid out pretty clearly and it’s only the emotional side of the marital problems that suffers for the new reader – I’m sure regular readers will get more out of it, but it left me a little cold. Things seemed to be rather black and white, especially at the end, but it’s possible that knowing the history of the characters would have given me a different opinion.
There’s a lot to like here with regards the rest of the book. The rationale behind why someone is dressed up as the Monk is very clever and there’s a couple of very clever touches that lead to the solution. The setting is well-crafted and the village is filled with characters with distinctive voices. Potts is a resourceful lead and his investigations move along in an entertaining way.
There are a couple of disappointments – the idea of the Monk isn’t expanded as much as one might expect from the cover blurb and one of the things that complicates the investigation seems to exist only to complicate the investigation, if you know what I mean.
Even so, it’s an interesting book, set in a period that I know little about, and I’ll keep an eye out for any future outings for Thomas.