After my last read, I sought some respite from a dark, dark world, so I hit the latest in the Lydmouth series from Andrew Taylor – Call the Dying. Can a novel with at least one murder ever really be a “cosy” though? Oh yes, it can. It’s almost always foggy in Lydmouth in Call the Dying; it’s that time of year. So, if you’d like to be reminded of your fortune, i.e. that you live in the present and have a crime free life, I’d suggest you curl up with this book.
This series is set in the 1950s, in and around the Anglo-Welsh borders town of the fictional Lydmouth. (Which is surely based very closely on Lydney?) The 1950s can so often be overlooked given the immediate post war years and the swinging sixties that followed; so it is really good to have a series that brings that period to life. Taylor makes it more so, due to the fact that his main characters are both outsiders to the area and we see that closed community through their eyes.
The main character is the married Richard Thornhill; dedicated copper by working hours, dedicated and loving father outside those working hours. The secondary character is journalist Jill Francis, who investigates a local story so very close to the police investigation and provides Thornhill with an ever increasing element of temptation.
I finished Call the Dying, faster than I’d anticipated, within just over a day. We have a cast of characters, a society experiencing turbulence for many reasons, and a series of personal and business problems that all draw the reader in. Indeed, it takes until over 100 pages before we actually have a body, but a body is delivered within the grand scheme of things; there are many crimes to be investigated here. This is Lydmouth facing a crisis, or so the “other newspaper”, The Post wants to tell us.
Jill has been absent from Lydmouth for a few years, having returned to London to pursue her career, where it seemed to matter most. The proprietor of The Gazette, the local rag, is taken ill and Jill returns to help out in very stressing circumstances. Richard, who is now the father of three had suspended all contact with her when she left, thus, when they meet again, bitterness fights with old passions, some not entirely spent.
This is a classic murder mystery whodunit. Andrew Taylor again delivers the goods. He always keeps me guessing to the very end, where one twist is never enough for him. Call the Dying has less twists than usual but it kept me guessing again, until the very end.
Call the Dying is a very satisfying read, even if I think that the final resolution was not the usual standard from Andrew Taylor. But then, he has previously set the goal posts so very, very high, that I am quite happy to suspend some disbelief here.
Call the Dying ends on a note that makes me want the next in the series PDQ. I am pleased to say that I read on his website that he is currently working on it. See here for more, in his words, on Call the Dying and the other books in, what is in my thoughts, a very excellent series: http://www.lydmouth.demon.co.uk/frames4.htm
Once under the skin of the characters, it is easy to be enthralled by this series, wherever you start. I recommend the whole series and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.
Note 1: To date, there are seven books in this series. Each individual novel is worth a big bite, and after it, I’m sure you’ll be reaching for the whole pie. I did not read them in order and that is not a loss to the series.
Note 2: Andrew Taylor’s “The American Boy”, (“An Unpardonable Crime” in the US), was featured in the “Richard & Judy” TV show book club in the UK, and was also short listed for more than one award in the UK as well as the US.
Note 3: I love the Lydmouth series and friends of mine have also loved the Roth trilogy.