A young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jesperson and Miss Lane screams “Witch” and dies. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land, quite literally, on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane.
It is suspected that Mr. Charles Manning died of a heart attack, despite the fact that he was considered to be in perfect health. The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost.
They sift through local suspects, each more suspicious than the last which include, Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft.
Series: From the Casebooks of Jesperson & Lane – Book 2
Author: Lisa Tuttle
Publisher: Random House
The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is written in the setting of long ago London. The author does not use the actual date but implies a time just before or during WWI, but the reader is never quite sure. The structure of the story is built around the death of a stranger who drops dead in the office and home of the detectives, in the middle of the night while screaming the word “Witch.”
There are hints of paranormal activities and witchcraft with just a hint of believability. The mere detectives begin an adventure to find out if in fact Mr. Manning was killed by a witch or if he was hallucinating. The reader is taken on a trip through small-town village life, complete with a rude and judgmental cast.
The main characters of Jesperson and Lane are likable characters with what would be considered a modern mindset in an old-world setting. Jesperson is laid back, calm and eternally curious. Lane is a single woman trying to make headway in a man’s world. Both characters are intelligent with imperfections and room to grow. The remaining cast of characters are narrow-minded, rude and very forgettable.
Although this is an interesting read and has moments of deep thoughtful interaction and situations as it reverts to almost an Agatha Christie style, it just doesn’t have quite the excitement needed to make it a truly good book. The story is a bit plodding, and there is no real action. Clues are hard to find within the pages and may be completely missed. The solution is entertaining, but it is a bit disappointing for the reader.
There is no doubt that the author is a good writer with a very good imagination and a wonderful writing style. However, overall there is room for improvement in The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross. Without reading the first book in the series it is difficult to understand the main character dynamics making this a difficult read.