cover image The Serpent Pool

The Serpent Pool

Martin Edwards, . . Poisoned Pen, $25 (284pp) ISBN 978-1-59058-593-1

The musty, sedate world of old books provides the backdrop for a series of gruesome murders in Edwards's absorbing fourth Lake District mystery (after 2007's The Arsenic Labyrinth ). Rare book dealers prove an unexpectedly randy lot as they are swept under by sexual undercurrents of obsession, infidelity, and jealousy. Inevitably, desire proves the undoing of one victim after another, as the sociopath responsible, obsessed by Thomas De Quincey's tract On Murder , fulfills his “destiny... to make nightmares come true.” Leave it to Det. Chief Insp. Hannah Scarlett to find the link between a cold case, the murder of 25-year-old aspiring writer Bethany Friend (or was it suicide?), found drowned in a shallow pool six years earlier, and two active investigations, though not before letting her own conflicted desires get the better of her when her current lover, a secondhand bookseller, falls under suspicion. Hannah's odd failure to pursue a line of questioning with another suspect also spells trouble. (Feb.)