Sharon Bolton’s novels are always original and well-crafted. Elly Griffith’s notes that her newest, The Craftsman, is ” . . . an absolutely terrific crime novel that takes your darkest fear and makes it real” in this first of a planned trilogy.

It’s 1999 and Florence Lovelady has returned to Lancashire for the burial of Larry Glassbrook, who has died in prison for burying three teens alive, thirty years before. She travels with her teen son, Ben, to Larry’s funeral, and stays on when a new piece of evidence comes to light. The case made Florence’s career, and yet she wonders now if she put the right person behind bars all those years ago.

The book swtiches to 1969, when the third of three teens has gone missing. Trying to fit in to her Lancashire posting, southerner Flossie is a WPC whose manner, posh education, and sex all come into play with her disparaging colleagues.

Three young children have gone missing over as many months. The town is scared, and it’s down to Florence to suggest a re-enactment of the day the third, Patsy Wood, went missing. It’s a novel approach, but one her Superintendent decides to try.

But it’s down to Flossie, who decides she must investigate a freshly-dug grave, after young children admit to hearing someone calling for help from it days before. Uncovering the grave means she’s the one who finds Patsy’s body, buried on top of another corpse. It’s evident at once the teen was alive when she was put into the casket.

The horror of such a death is immediately apparent and haunts the reader. Indeed, it is the stuff of nightmares for most people, and the dark and disturbing images stay with readers as the book advances and the perpetrator is caught.

Or is he?

With its history of Pendle Hill witches in the area adding to the terrifying atmosphere, this is the kind of gothic novel that grips you by the back of your neck and doesn’t let go even after the last page is turned. You’ll learn the difference between caskets and coffins and why that matters. You’ll learn how the moon affects witches. And you’ll learn to be terrifed and then in awe of Florence. Highly recommended.

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