Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"Skin and Bone"

Robin Blake is the author of the Cragg & Fidelis series, including A Dark Anatomy and Dark Waters, in addition to acclaimed works on the artists Van Dyck and Stubbs. He has written, produced and presented extensively for radio, is widely published as a critic.

Blake applied the Page 69 Test to Skin & Bone, the fourth Cragg & Fidelis mystery, and reported the following:
Page 69 is a actually crunch moment in the story. The year is 1743 and Titus Cragg (the narrator) is the Coroner at Preston, an English provincial town. Chapter 6 began with him consulting his progressive young friend Dr Luke Fidelis over the corpse of a new born baby. Cragg is about to open the inquest into the child’s death, and he has asked Fidelis to perform a post-mortem, since he wants to know whether the child was deliberately killed – a difficult matter to decide in those days before forensic science. Fidelis says he indeed has reason to believe the child was murdered and with this information Cragg proceeds to open the inquest. The most likely suspect in such cases would be the baby’s mother since for an unmarried girl to have an illegitimate child was almost certainly to ruin her life chances. But this baby has been found sunk in a tanner’s pit and the mother is unknown. As the inquest proceeds suspicion coalesces around one particular girl, an ex-servant who has since skipped town. Her mother has just come forward to the witness chair to speak up for her daughter when “ I smelled smoke creeping up between the floorboards around the stairwell wall. And then someone yelled in a hoarse, urgent voice, ‘Fire! Fire!’ ” These are the last words on page 69, and the last words of the chapter.
Visit Robin Blake's website.

--Marshal Zeringue