Priscilla Masters’ versatility as a crime writer is demonstrated by her latest novel, Buried in Clay. I first came across her work when her first Joanna Piercy novel was published, and after we got to know each other, we did a few library events together, which I found highly enjoyable. Over the years, I’ve read almost all of her books, including a children’s story she published before becoming a novelist (the tale is set at Biddulph Grange, a National Trust property which boasts one of the most fascinating gardens I’ve ever visited), but this book strikes me as rather different from its predecessors. In essence, it’s a venture into the field of romantic suspense.
In a note at the start of the book, Cilla explains that she started writing the story in the 1980s, at a time when she was running an antiques business specialising in Staffordshire pottery and period furniture. Travelling in Cheshire, her eye was caught by a 16th century black-and-white house called Hall o’th’Wood: old black-and-white houses are relatively plentiful in the county and I share Cilla’s enthusiasm for them. Musing about the house’s history, she developed an idea for a novel, although it was never published.
Years later, when Cilla was being published by Allison & Busby (who also publish my Lake District Mysteries) she was asked about her early writing and was encouraged, although the original manuscript was lost, to re-write the story of Hall o’th’Wood.
Buried in Clay is the result, and very readable it is too. I’ll be reviewing it for Tangled Web UK, but suffice to say that the blend of history and contemporary suspense is handled in an accomplished fashion and the rural setting is beautifully evoked.