Spring, 1840. In the Dorset market town of Wimborne Minster, a young choirboy drowns himself. Soon after, the choirmaster a belligerent man with a vicious reputation is found murdered, in a discovery tainted as much by relief as it is by suspicion. The gaze of the magistrates falls on four local men, whose decisions will reverberate through the community for years to come.
So begins the chronicle of Crow Court, unravelling over fourteen delicately interwoven episodes, the town of Wimborne their backdrop: a young gentleman and his groom run off to join the army; a sleepwalking cordwainer wakes on his wife s grave; desperate farmhands emigrate. We meet the composer with writer s block; the smuggler; a troupe of actors down from London; and old Art Pugh, whose impoverished life has made him hard to amuse.
Meanwhile, justice waits
If you saw my #WinterReads Column, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, I absolutely love books that have credible historical characters and events woven through them and often get so obsessed with a time period that I spend longer researching the ideas around a historical book than it took me to read the novel itself. Crow Court is set in one of my favourite periods, and I could not wait to immerse myself in the world of Wimboure Minster since Anne Cater invited me onto the Blog Tour.
I am delighted to report that this novel met every single one of my expectations, with every element of it absolutely pitch-perfect. I could not tear myself away from its twists and turns and have been recommending it to everyone and feeling jealous of anyone who still has this captivating novel on their TBR list…
Crow Court is another pageturner of a period murder mystery set in stunning Dorset and making me desperate to visit once this lokdown is over, so vivid is its sense of place – it brings this beautiful location vividly to life as it plunges us into the sights and sounds of Wimbourne and allows us an insight into the goings-on alongside a memorable cast of characters. Charman brings this period of history expertly to life, and I was fascinated to walk in these characters’ footsteps. The quality of the prose makes us feel like we are time-travelling into this perfectly captured historical world and experiencing events alongside this diverse and compelling cast of characters. I love the fact that both settings and characters are equally considered and this allows us as readers to effortlessly step through time and inhabit this world fully as we attempt to solve this mystery across fourteen perfectly pitched episodes…
The diversity of the ‘cast’ is what actually makes Crow Court such a readable book and the diverse nature of the tale meant that we are able to seee this tale unfold from such a range of perspectives that allows us to really inhabit this tale. It is a sheer pleasure to see the story change and develop in a world where class and money mean an awful lot more than justice or morality for much of the time. In this novel, it feels like you can dip into each section and hear a different facet of the story and feel like your understanding changes with each perspective, just as it does in life.
You cannot fail to be drawn into this fully-realised historical world. If you adore a fully-realised evocatively drawn period tale, you’ll bloody love this book and I cannot wait to see what my book group think as I know that they are going to love this story that you will find difficult to believe is a debut novel, so confident and assured is the writing and so deftly drawn are the characters. Buy yourself a copy here to enjoy over lockdown as you get the opportunity to lose yourself in a time and place that you will absolutely feel is real ans will find it as impossible as I did to tear yourself away from….
Writer On The Shelf
Andy Charman was born in Dorset and grew up near Wimborne Minster, where Crow Court is set. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies and magazines, including Pangea and Cadenza. Crow Court is his first novel, which he worked on at the Arvon course at The Hurst in Shropshire in 2018. Andy lives in Surrey and is available for interview, comment and events.