This month’s Editor’s Pick is THE MAUSOLEUM by David Mark.
With THE MAUSOLEUM, a gripping and atmospheric psychological thriller set in the wild lands of the Scottish borders, we are delighted to welcome highly-acclaimed crime writer David Mark to the Severn House list. Formerly the crime reporter for the Yorkshire Post and The Sunday Times-bestselling author of nine police procedurals in the DS Aector McAvoy series, with this literate, riveting standalone, David Mark has embarked on an exciting new direction in his writing.
The novel opens in an isolated rural churchyard, where disgraced academic Cordelia Hemlock is grieving the loss of her son, taking comfort among the ancient headstones. When lightning strikes an ancient crypt, she catches a glimpse of a freshly-interred body which has no place among the crumbling bones surrounding it. But when the storm passes, the body has vanished – and the local authorities refuse to believe the claims of a hysterical ‘outsider’. Teaming up with a reluctant witness, local woman Felicity Goose – the only other person to have seen the body – Cordelia’s enquiries all seem to lead back to a former Prisoner-of-War camp that was established in the village during the Second World War. But not all Gilsland’s residents welcome the two young women’s interference. There are those who believe the village’s secrets should remain buried . . . whatever the cost.
What I particularly loved about THE MAUSOELUM was, firstly, its richly evoked, isolated rural setting and the taciturn yet intriguingly complex characters who inhabit that remote region. The novel is set in the real village of Gilsland, which straddles the border between Cumbria and Northumberland, and is situated on Hadrian’s Wall – the Ancient Roman wall which divides England and Scotland (and was George R R Martin’s inspiration for The Wall in Game of Thrones). A place of great historical significance, the area is infused with ancient myth and legend, and this richly atmospheric backdrop forms a core part of the tension-fuelled, complex plot which David Mark weaves around it.
Secondly, I loved the fact that the narrative is seen from two very different but equally compelling female viewpoints in Cordelia and Felicity (I think the author captures both female narrative voices quite brilliantly, which isn’t always an easy trick to pull off for a male writer). David Mark makes both woman wholly believable – Cordelia, the well-educated Oxford academic who has fled to Gilsland to escape a personal scandal, and Felicity, a garrulous young housewife who has never travelled beyond the Scottish borders where she grew up – as well as the initially unlikely friendship that grows between the pair as they join forces to uncover the truth behind the body in the crypt. Chalk-and-cheese as they are, personally I found Cordelia and Felicity so well-drawn that I found myself completely wrapped up in their stories and rooting for them both all the way.
I would recommend THE MAUSOLEUM to anyone who enjoys an atmospheric, literate, unusual and compelling thriller: fans of Louise Penny, Elly Griffiths and Stephen Booth should particularly enjoy.
THE MAUSOLEUM is available from 28 February in the UK and 1 June in the US. Read more here.