Book review: The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 Permalink

There’s a note to readers in the front of this novel which provides a bit of context for what comes next. Or a warning perhaps…. if you’re like me. I’m not a fan of fantasy or the supernatural, so I worried a little about Sharon Bolton’s mention of her fascination with the (long-past) ‘branding’ of witches (and anyone who didn’t quite fit in) in her native Pendle Forrest in Lancashire, and the role it played in inspiring this novel.

Book review: The Craftsman by Sharon BoltonThe Craftsman
by Sharon J. Bolton
Published by Trapeze
on April 5th 2018
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1409174123, 9781409174127
Pages: 304

He makes his living from death. But is he capable of murder? Florence Lovelady's career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Grassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares, the victims were buried, but while they were still alive.

Larry confessed the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he's dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves. Did she get it wrong all those years ago? Or is there something much darker at play?

Bolton notes she was a weird kid and could have been thus branded had she lived in a different time. It’s this backdrop and the events of her childhood (featuring a number of serial killers) that set the stage for this novel – which predominantly unfolds in 1969.

The books opens in 1999 however, with the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, convicted killer of three teenage children thirty years earlier.

Our insight into the murders (well, one in particular) is pretty macabre as the young people were seemingly buried alive…. though it’s unsure how much of their last moments they were meant to endure.

Now an Assistant Commissioner, Florence Lovelady takes us back to 1969, when she was known as Flossie and barely tolerated by her male colleagues. I was reminded of Lynda LaPlante’s new (young) Jane Tennison series and Karin Slaughter’s Cop Town (set in Atlanta in the 1970s). I know equality and equity (between sexes, races and cultures) has a long way to go, but books like this remind us of how far we have come. (And what those who came before us had to tolerate!!!)

Flossie’s smart, educated and somewhat dogged. In her early 20s, she’s not as savvy as she should be when it comes to social niceties and playing politics at work  so she can’t help herself and tends to share ideas. To both her benefit and detriment.

As an aside, I would have liked more about Flossie’s background. There’s a reference or two to her upbringing and privilege but it felt as if there was a backstory I might have missed!

On one level this could easily be a story about a psychopathic serial killer leaving (very purposeful) misleading clues. But Bolton also introduces us to witchcraft and superstitions and a sense that someone may be acting in a way they believe to be predestined. And it may surprise those who believe me to be infallible, but I did get a *tad* confused on that front.

However… although we delve into Wicca, sorcery and superstitions, in reality – like most pathologies and criminality – it kinda comes down to those who are just screwy and derive some sort of pleasure from hurting or destroying others. (I think.)

We eventually end up spending a bit of time in 1999 with AC Lovelady and her teenage son when she’s surprised by a threat from the past that leaves her questioning the 30yr old investigation and verdict.

I probably didn’t enjoy this quite as much as some of Bolton’s other work (Little Black Lies comes to mind in particular), given our foray into the less-explicable realm. But that’s mostly me and my logic-loving mind that needs to control (ahem) make sense of the stuff around me.

Bolton’s added a few twists in at the end so we’re kept guessing, and though I’d planned on only a short read I was ‘forced’ to read this in a sitting. Fortunately my forgone Saturday night plans only involved Netflix so there was minimal impact on the fate of the world as a result.

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton was published in Australia by Hachette and now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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