Though life hasn't slowed down as much as I might have liked lately, I've still found time to do a little recreational reading. My latest foray into fiction is A Dangerous Place, a fascinating collection of murder mysteries by Robin Herne.
I cut my teeth on traditional mystery stories: Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Dorothy Sayers. What sets this collection of short stories apart is that, rather than the individual tales being connected by a main character (Miss Marple, for instance, or Lord Peter Wimsey), they're connected by location. They all take place in Ipswich, a historic town in Britain, not too far northeast of London.
Ipswich is, indeed, a historic town; the first of the murder mysteries in this collection takes place in the time of the Druids. They work their way through time down to the present, with each story being a glimpse into not just the shifting tides of human history but also the vagaries of the human psyche, criminal and otherwise.
These aren't just puzzle-piece mystery stories. Each one involves a mystical or religious angle of some sort as a vital part of the plot, and they all shade heavily toward Paganism, either overtly or covertly. The characters who tease out the details of the crimes are as varied as the stories, but they're all believable, all thrown into sharp relief by the well-chosen language of a skilled storyteller.
For those who are as fascinated as I was by the locations and historical or quasi-historical characters depicted in these stories, the author has generously included research notes at the end of each chapter that delve into the details. Altogether, this is quite an enjoyable set of tales that took me away from the worries of my own world and into the intrigue of another place and a whole series of times.