The eccentric and purposeful Lady Lavinia Truelove enters her stables early in the morning, unseen by her peers, where she plans to subdue and ride the erratic, untamable Lucifer. She’ll show her husband that she’s a horsewoman to be reckoned with, as well as two sights higher than the woman she thinks may be capturing her husband’s eye.
Moments later, she is dead, neck broken, lying under the horse’s massive hooves. Horrified stable boys rush to sound the alarm.
So begins Enter Pale Death, a 12th installment in Brit author Barbara Cleverly’s Joe Sandilands crime series set in the era between the momentous World Wars. The Scotland Yard assistant commissioner is flummoxed by a death that is surely one of “misadventure” (the stable boys are scarified witnesses), yet seems to have been death by intent, as it becomes apparent that several people stand to benefit from the lady’s sudden demise—husband James included.
Sandilands travels from London to the scene of the crime deep in rural Suffolk on the North Sea coast and makes the acquaintance of Adam Hunnyton, local police chief and character extraordinaire, who wants to use Sandilands’ eyes for a second look at the crime—and various Truelove family members. Sandilands soon discovers that Dorcas, the woman he hopes to marry, was a guest at the Truelove estate on the eve of Lavinia’s death, and to complicate matters, Dorcas is the very woman that James Truelove may have his eye on.
Cleverly delivers a witty, atmospheric and well-conceived slice of British crime, an old-fashioned country brew that includes a wood haunted by the Wild Green Man of Britain’s pagan past and a treasure trove of equine lore that traces back to an ancient brotherhood of horsemen. One entrancing and colorful encounter takes place in a field as the urbanized Sandilands encounters a herd of prancing, curious horses, and his store of equine knowledge stands him in excellent stead.
At times Cleverly can be a bit too nonchalant and chatty, detracting from the story’s atmosphere, but her marvelous descriptions of country lore and an evocative Suffolk countryside setting provide a taste of all things British and may send curious readers scurrying to the library to learn more about the ancient traditions in this most ancient of lands.