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.
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…
Andy Charman was born in Dorset and grew up near Wimborne Minster, where Crow Court is set. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies and magazines, including Pangea and Cadenza. Crow Court is his first novel, which he worked on at the Arvon course at The Hurst in Shropshire in 2018. Andy lives in Surrey and is available for interview, comment and events.
This was a really interesting piece of historical fiction that follows the residents of a small Dorset town after the suicide of a young boy and the murder of the choirmaster who mistreated him.
Each chapter follows a different person, from the four men who are thought to be involved in the murder, to interested and nosy neighbours.
I really enjoyed the use of the local dialect, as someone who loves hearing people’s accents and local phrases it was a treat, I find it brings books to life as it gives you a real feel for place and time.
Moving, powerful and slightly magical at times, this is an extraordinary debut novel and promises much more to come from the author.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.