My thanks to Inkshares and Edelweiss for a review copy of the book.
Unnatural Ends is a murder mystery set in a small village in the Yorkshire moors in the 1920s involving family dynamics and secrets and centred around a rather unsettling theme.
As the book opens, we meet three siblings, Alan, Roger and Caroline Linwood arriving at their home Linwood Hall, as their father, Sir Lawrence Linwood has died. The three are shocked to learn that their father’s death was not a natural one, and he was rather brutally murdered in his own study. Not only that, according to the terms of his will, whichever of the three solves the murder stands to inherit Linwood Hall.
We soon learn that the three siblings were all adopted by Sir Lawrence and two of them are of mixed race. Sir Lawrence was harsh and strict but brought up the three children to achieve laurels in their own ways; always trying to make them ‘strong’, with no room for emotion, even towards each other. Sir Lawrence was much admired in his village for his scientific work had helped improve agriculture and bring prosperity to most. So who could have killed him and why? As the siblings start to look into this, on their own and together, they start to not only understand the kind of person Sir Lawrence really was but also discover secrets from their own pasts.
Told in third person, the narrative shifts between different perspectives; essentially the three siblings but also a couple of times, Inspector Mowbray who is in charge of the case, Lady Linwood, their mother, and Iris Morgan, Robert’s girlfriend/fiancée who has accompanied him home. We also get some glimpses of the past when the three were children.
I enjoyed these shifts in perspective, particularly between Alan, Roger and Caroline as with these, the lines of enquiry they undertake shift and we also get to see things from each of their viewpoints—Alan is an archaeologist so his views always take into account the past; Roger works with planes and cars, engineering his own improvements while Caroline who works as a journalist and was destined by their father for parliament, is also interested in the theatre and that comes through in her view of things. The dynamics between the three have changed somewhat ever since the war and the three having followed their separate paths, but while they pursue their own investigations, they also share the information eventually forming a more complete picture, and learning also to rely on each other again.
The atmosphere in the book was quite well done too; Linwood Hall is an imposing old house looking over the village and the moors but more than its age and past, it is Sir Lawrence who looms large through it all. Whether it is when the three were children or now when they’ve grown and set off on their own paths, they continue to be under his shadow and control, always trying to live up to his expectations and doing what he’d want them to. While it isn’t that they haven’t got their interests and personalities but one can see them being stifled almost by their father’s shadow.
The mystery itself was pretty interesting as well, though I managed to guess whodunit pretty early on. The book did get me to doubt what I thought with some of its twists and turns, but then I found more clues. The why on the other hand was something I did not guess (and pieced together with the siblings), nor some of the other details. The explanation when it emerged while realistic and possible was all the same very unsettling and that and other details did send some chills down my spine.
Overall though this made for an interesting and engrossing read both for its plot and characters.
4.25 stars (I lowered my rating a tiny bit because the who was guessable.)