Martin Cruz Smith writes fabulous mystery novels with a low key hero in unusual locations. This book takes place in the English coal mining town of Wigan in 1872. Jonathan Blair is paid to discover the fate of the town's pastor, John Maypole. Jonathan has recently returned from Africa and suffers recurring bouts of malaria. He wants to settle the matter of the disappearance as fast as possible so he can return to Africa.
Through Blair's eyes we learn a little of what life in a mining town and work in a mine are like and what the people's lives are like, living in perpetual darkness, and unable to get away from an occupation that is perpetually dangerous, dirty, and soul-depletingly horrible. But, as his patrons, the rich Hannay family might be heard to say, "Someone's got to do it."
If you like mysteries that don't depend on car chases and gun fights and offer a view of a life you'll never experience, this is a book for you. It will be even more dramatic if you suffer from claustrophobia.
My rating for this book: +++