Lydmouth is small, postwar English town along the Welsh border, a place that has seen better days. Still, newly promoted CID Richard Thornhill eagerly accepted a position on the Lydmouth police force. But he and his family are having some problems adapting to their new home. Successful London journalist Jill Francis accepts an invitation from friends to stay with them in Lydmouth, while recovering from an emotional experience that only becomes clear as the story develops. Complicating Jill’s recovery is the uncomfortable fact that she and her host were once an item, and his wife is well aware of that. A further complication is the small box unearthed by some constructions workers , one of whom is the town’s ne’er-do-well.
An Air that Kills is one of Andrew Taylor’s early novels, and while it lacks the edge that characterizes his recent books (Bleeding Heart Square, An Unpardonable Crime, The Roth Trilogy), his potential is evident from the very first page. This is a dark-ish tale , in which old wounds are reopened and both protagonists and neighbors have plenty of secrets of their own. Taylor is adept at using gothic elements in a thoroughly modern way, avoiding melodrama while building suspense via the insertion of subtle psychological suggestion. His skillful plotting and his ability to draw readers into time and place are unrivaled.
Highly recommended. I look forward to the next entry in this series.