The Craftsman

The CraftsmanThe Craftsman by Sharon J. Bolton
on January 1st 1970
Pages: 352
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“The Craftsman is the story of women, and witches. Of the children we love and must protect. And of the men who fear us.” -Sharon Bolton

Holy Crap! This is the rare book which had my mouth hanging open at the end! SHOCKING!

The Craftsman is a perfectly crafted tale in which Bolton carefully molds her story of murder, sexism, witches, legend and mystery. In 1999 Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady has returned to Sabden with her fifteen-year-old son, Ben, for the funeral of master carpenter and funeral director, Larry Glassbrook. Thirty years ago, Florence arrested him for murdering three local teens by burying them alive with clay effigies in the caskets he made. His funeral is not the typical one. Instead of mourners weeping for the deceased, the funeral is attended by those who are happy he is dead and enjoy spitting on his casket.

Florence, who often visited Larry in prison many times over the years has come back to see him put to rest and to visit the home where she lodged while she worked with the Lancashire police force. Coincidentally the home she rented a room in, was owned by Larry Glassbrook and his wife, Sally. While examining the old home and grounds, she finds a clay effigy of herself, complete with a missing finger. One that she lost thirty years earlier. She begins to look back to 1969 when she investigated the case and those who were suspects and those who helped with the investigation.

In 1969, Florence was a member of the Lancanshire police force. She was constantly being put in her place and reminded that she was not one of the boys. Many members of the force did not like that she had a college education, was clever, smart and spoke her mind. She was constantly being asked to make tea and do menial tasks to remind her of her “place.” The team especially did not like that she made suggestions concerning the missing teens and how to find them. DC Tom Devins appears at times to be the only one on the force who respects her input and opinions although he frequently cautions her about how others perceive her.

What begins to feel like a cut and dry police procedural becomes even more interesting when Florence hears drums in the distance and eventually learns that there is a coven of witches in the town. HUH? What, you may ask witches??? Yes, witches and two of them befriend Florence and remind her that she must trust someone. Here is where some might think the book is going to go off into the deep end, but here is where the magic happens (pun intended). Yes, you need to suspend some disbelief, but everything worked perfectly for me in this book. Bolton seamlessly blends the paranormal into her criminal investigation brilliantly.

The town of Sabdem is made up of quirky and interesting characters who may or may not know what is going on. There was a lot of fear in that town during 1969 when teens went missing and the police could not come up with a suspect until Larry Glassbrook’s arrest. As Florence finds the clay effigy of herself in 1999 she begins to wonder who put it there? Why? Did the police miss something all those years ago? Is she in danger?

I was drawn into this book form the very beginning. My advice – read the Author’s note before beginning the book. Bolton talks the infamous Pendle Witch Trials and the legend of how a witch is baptized twice first in the church and then in dark water. She talks of her interest in witches and with women who “stand out from the crowd and who are punished by that same crowd for daring to be different.”

I read most of this book in one day as I could not put it down. I was riveted to this story and refused to quit reading until I had finished the book. By the way, I love the last names in this book – Lovelady and Glassbrook. The writing is stellar, and the plot is extremely well thought out and clever. I enjoyed how the Author had a character whisper one sentence to another in the book and while I read it I thought “awe, that’s sweet” and then the end came, and I realized that that the sentence meant something else entirely and I thought “HOLY CRAP!”. As I mentioned, my mouth was literally hanging open at the end due to my surprise! I did not see that coming at all!!!!

This book has a little bit of everything – drama, murder, suspense, mystery, romance, witchcraft, etc. Bolton combines it all perfectly and the town itself is eerie, spooky and atmospheric.

In case I haven’t’ been clear, I loved this book!

I can’t believe that I have never read this Author before, I see myself binge reading her other books in the near future!

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press- Minotaur Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.