Christmas Day, Kent, 1796
On the frozen fields of Romney Marsh stands New Hall; silent, lifeless, deserted. In its grounds lies an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of a horse pond.
It falls to the Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace in St Mary in the Marsh, to investigate. But with the victim’s identity unknown, no murder weapon and no known motive, it seems like an impossible task. Working along with his trusted friend, Amelia Chaytor, and new arrival Captain Edward Austen, Hardcastle soon discovers there is more to the mystery than there first appeared.
With the arrival of an American family torn apart by war and desperate to reclaim their ancestral home, a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes, ancient loyalties and new vengeance combine to make Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor’s attempts to discover the secret of New Hall all the more dangerous.
The good widow Amelia Chaytor is trying to enjoy a Christmas meal with friends when her servant rushes in with news of a dead body half in the frozen horse pond up at New Hall, where he had been pilfering some firewood.
The ever so curious widow marches straight up to find out what is going on. On finding a body, they send for the good Reverand Hardcastle, Rector and Justice of the Peace in this small village.
Now they must figure out who the person is and what were they doing at the abandoned New Hall?
This is a hard time in history for both the violent and turbulence going on in the Americas, fresh from winning their independence from England, to the spies in England who would like to take England for the French and with America form a powerhouse allegiance. There is a shortage of able-bodied men which means the good Hardcastle and Mrs. Chaytor have very little help trying to find the truth.
When the owners of New Hall show up more questions than answers are found.
This is the second book featuring Hardcastle and Chaytor in St. Mary in the Marsh and I am a big fan of this historical mystery writing. And while quite a bit of this story may have happened. It is a fine tale!
About the Author:
A.J. MacKenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, a collaborative Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife duo. Between them they have written more than twenty non-fiction and academic titles, with specialisms including management, medieval economic history and medieval warfare. THE BODY ON THE DOORSTEP (2016) was their first novel.