1919. The Derbyshire village of Wenfield is still reeling from four years of war. Just when the village has begun to regain its tranquillity, a young girl, Myrtle Bligh, is found stabbed and left in woodland, her mouth slit to accommodate a dead dove – a bird of peace.
When two more women are found murdered in identical circumstances, Wenfield is thrown into a panic.
With rumours of a ghostly soldier with a painted face being spotted near the scene of the murders, Inspector Albert Lincoln is sent up from London to crack the terrible case – but with the killer still on the loose, who will be the next to die at the hands of this vicious angel of death?
Set in a Derbyshire village the year after the end of the Great War, almost every house has lost a member to the fighting except the Manor House. When Mill worker, Myrtle, receives a note supposedly from her dead fiancé she suspects he might have deserted but going to meet him in Pooley Woods she meets her own death. Her body was found stabbed by young Jack and the local doctor is summoned to examine it. The narrative moves to the first-person account of Flora, the doctor’s daughter. During the war she had served as a responsible VAD nursing auxiliary at Turnhey Court but now her father is not keen to trust her. She was not phased at seeing Myrtle’s body or even by the dove forced into her mouth. A few weeks later, local gossip, Annie, whose son had gone missing in action, also receives a note and is later found stabbed. Jack is arrested but there is only circumstantial evidence and when a third murder takes place while he is in custody, urgent help is needed. An Inspector from Scotland Yard arrives. Albert Lincoln is an experienced officer who had been disfigured by a shell and then had lost his only son to influenza. Despite his sorrow he is a meticulous investigator and sympathetic individual.
The story is slow moving but we come to know Albert and Flora very well. We learn that Albert’s wife is so distressed by the death of her son that she has rejected her returning husband. Flora, outwardly calm and sensible is frustrated by her life after leaving the VAD and wants to train as a proper nurse. The disappearance of her mother when she was young still haunts her and she misses her dead brother. Albert and Flora find comfort in each other’s company, but they seem to be no nearer in finding the murderer.
The mysteries of Flora’s missing mother, the actions of many of the women during wartime and the hunt for the murderer are intriguing and the concealed feelings of the villagers make for a frightening atmosphere. There are several red herrings, and the denouement is surprising but convincing. I shall certainly be seeking out the second volume of this series.
A High Mortality of Doves on Amazon UK
My Review of The Merchant’s House by Kate Ellis