The Arsenic Labyrinth is the third in the series of Lake District Mysteries featuring DCI Hannah Scarlett, who heads Cumbria Constabulary’s Cold Case Review Team, and the historian Daniel Kind.
Guy, a drifter with a taste for deception, has returned to Coniston in England’s Lake District after a gap of ten years. A local journalist, Tony di Venuto, is campaigning to revive interest in the disappearance of Emma Bestwick and Guy knows what happened to her. When he tips off the newspaperman that Emma will not be coming home, DCI Hannah Scarlett re-opens the old investigation. Her enquiries take her to the Museum of Myth and Legend, where Emma once worked, and eventually to the remote and eerie Arsenic Labyrinth.
Meanwhile, Daniel Kind is immersing himself in the work of John Ruskin, who lived at Coniston and one of whose neighbours created the Arsenic Labyrinth. A shocking discovery makes it clear to Hannah that there is not one mystery to solve, but two, and she turns to Daniel for help in untangling the secrets of the past. As Hannah and Daniel struggle to resist a growing but dangerous attraction to each other, Guy’s plans to make a quick buck run into trouble and he has to resort to desperate measures. A violent death in the present day shows that someone is determined to kill to keep their secrets safe. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Lake District in winter, the novel depicts passionate emotional relationships leading to obsession and murder. Even when a complex puzzle has been solved, there is a further twist and a sacrifice that is both poignant and terrifying.
Suggested discussion points for readers’ groups
A starting point for debate may be some or all of the following questions:
- Why do you think the author included scenes showing events from Guy’s point of view?
- Was it a good idea to include a family tree in the book, or was it irrelevant?
- If you haven’t read the earlier books in the series, did you find that a disadvantage?
- How did the author seek to evoke the setting?
- If you know the Lakes, was the description of the places realistic?
- Was the background information about Ruskin relevant and interesting? Was there too little of it, or too much?
- How credible was the description of the Museum of Myth and Legend, and how important was it to the story?
- Did you find the description of police procedure credible?
- How did the author seek to describe the relationships between Hannah and Marc, Daniel and Miranda, and Hannah and Daniel?
- After reading the book, would you want to read a different series of books from the same author, with an urban setting in the Liverpool?
The Arsenic Labyrinth paperback editions
Allison & Busby, UK
Poisoned Pen Press, US