The Mausoleum

The Mausoleum

Book - 2019
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1967. In a quiet village in the wild lands of the Scottish borders, disgraced academic Cordelia Hemlock is trying to put her life back together. Grieving the loss of her son, she seeks out the company of the dead, taking comfort amid the ancient headstones and crypts of the local churchyard. When lightning strikes a tumbledown tomb, she glimpses a corpse that doesn't belong among the crumbling bones. But when the storm passes and the body vanishes, the authorities refuse to believe the claims of a hysterical 'outsider'. Teaming up with a reluctant witness, local woman Felicity Goose, Cordelia's enquiries all lead back to a former POW camp that was set up in the village during the Second World War. But not all Gilsland's residents welcome the two young women's interference. There are those who believe the village's secrets should remain buried... whatever the cost.
Publisher: London :, Severn House,, 2019
Edition: First world edition
Description: 266 pages ; 23 cm
ISBN: 9780727888723
Branch Call Number: Mark


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Dec 10, 2019

It begins in the present as 2 elderly women sit vigil at the bedside of a dying man. We have no idea who the characters are but it’s obvious they have a long & complex history. We then go back to how it all began.

Cordelia (Cordie) is an educated woman whose husband has sent her to live in the country. She’s a fish out of water & initially dismissive of her rural neighbours. Felicity (Flick) is a wife & mother who has lived in the area all her life. They first meet in a graveyard & when lightening strikes an old mausoleum, they’re horrified to see a body come tumbling out. An ancient skeleton perhaps? Nope. There’s flesh on those bones & the snazzy suit suggests the wearer is of a more recent vintage.

What follows is the story of Cordie & Flick’s great adventure. On one level it’s a murder mystery with disturbing undertones & a slow rising tension. But it’s also the story of these 2 women & how their investigation & relationship permanently alters their lives.

Most of the book is set in a rural Scottish village in the 1960’s but it feels at least a decade earlier. The pace, descriptions of village life & frequent allusions to the war all combine to create a story that’s more in keeping with the era of golden age mysteries.

To be honest, it took me a while to settle in with this one. I think I went in with certain expectations based on Mark’s previous books. Setting the stage takes the first half. Not much happens but you become immersed in the lives of the characters & history of the area. It’s heavy on dialogue which the author delivers using local vernacular to great effect. More than anything else, that’s what helped me find the book’s rhythm & just sit back & let Cordie & Flick tell me their story.

The pace picks up for the last 20% as we begin to glimpse the big picture. War atrocities, secrets & lies with startling local connections are exposed. The village is shaken & for Cordie in particular, it’s the beginning of a new life.

After pondering it a bit, I realized what I enjoyed most was the relationship between the 2 women. It gradually evolves as they rub off on each other, both deeply affected by their shared experience. There’s a subtle power shift as they learn to appreciate their differences & the result is a long friendship based on mutual acceptance, trust & affection. The prose has a beautiful simplicity that makes the setting & characters come across as completely authentic.

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