Welcome to my stop on the Crow Court blog tour! Huge thanks to Random Things Tours for giving me the opportunity to take part in this! I was provided a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publication Date: 21/01/2021
Length: 316 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction | Mystery
CW: sexual assault, child abuse, murder, suicide
Spring, 1840. In the Dorset market town of Wimborne Minster, a young choirboy drowns himself. Soon after, the choirmaster—a belligerent man with a vicious reputation—is found murdered, in a discovery tainted as much by relief as it is by suspicion. The gaze of the magistrates falls on four local men, whose decisions will reverberate through the community for years to come.GoodReads
So begins the chronicle of Crow Court, unravelling over fourteen delicately interwoven episodes, the town of Wimborne their backdrop: a young gentleman and his groom run off to join the army; a sleepwalking cordwainer wakes on his wife’s grave; desperate farmhands emigrate. We meet the composer with writer’s block; the smuggler; a troupe of actors down from London; and old Art Pugh, whose impoverished life has made him hard to amuse.
Meanwhile, justice waits…
There were quite a lot of characters in this story so I didn’t form a strong bond with most of them. That being said there were still a few characters who stood out for me, Charlie Ellis in particular was probably my favourite. As the novel continues and the novel spans several years, he becomes a really complex character going from a cheeky, and loveable, smuggler to someone more mature and considerate of others. Whilst he is only in the novel briefly, I really liked the way Charman characterised the choir boy. It was very clever to introduce him for the opening chapter and truly give the reader a sense of his personality which then never his death hit even harder especially when you learn the reasons behind it.
As I mentioned, this novel features many characters which span several years. There were times where I was slightly Confused and unsure on how certain chapters related to the original plot. However, there would be the odd subtle mention or a character that I recognised which kept me very intrigued as I just wanted to know what really happened to the choirmaster! There were also a couple of chapters that I was really fascinated by, in particular the vicar talking to his atheist nephew and the one with the little boy doing everything he can to imitate his hero: Lord Nelson. It was chapters like these which highlight how Charman has a talent for suspense and dialogue. A lot of the chapters had the detail and character development of short stories which I also enjoyed.
The main plot of the mysterious deaths felt slightly sidelined in the middle of the novel which did make it a little confusing for me at first, but I think this was there because I read the novel in several sittings rather than the writing of the novel. I found the main plot incredibly interesting and I really liked the reveal at the end, especially as there were several moments where I thought I had figured out what had happened to the choirmaster. There is a lot more I would like to say about this bittersweet ending, however I, of course, don’t want to spoil it.
Overall, this is a very interesting historical novel and a solid debut from Charman. I’m very curious as to what characters he crafts in the future!