Book review: Secrets in the Stones by Tessa Harris

Oriental intrigue and a magnificent but cursed Indian diamond form the exotic background to a thrilling new murder mystery from the ever resourceful Tessa Harris.
Secrets in the Stones byTessa HarrisSecrets in the Stones byTessa Harris
Secrets in the Stones byTessa Harris

Secrets in the Stones is the sixth book in Oxford graduate and journalist Harris’ much-loved Dr Thomas Silkstone Mystery series which is based on fascinating true events and real people in late 18th century history.

The intriguing hero is Silkstone, a young American anatomist from Philadelphia whose pioneering medical skills and early forensic methods help him to uncover hidden clues, solve dastardly murders and bring evil rogues to justice.

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With their complex, page-turning plots, compelling characters and a heart-fluttering romance for the redoubtable Dr Silkstone, these are intelligent, immaculately researched stories for historical mystery fans.

Silkstone’s new case was inspired by Thomas Motte’s real-life, highly dangerous expedition to India in 1766, commissioned by Clive of India, to open up a trade route and purchase diamonds from the local rulers.

In 1784, Lady Lydia Farrell, a young widow and the love of Dr Silkstone’s life, is newly released from the notorious London asylum known as Bedlam and returning to Boughton Hall in Oxfordshire where she is the virtual prisoner of Sir Montagu Malthus, the man who recently confessed to being her real father and now the custodian of her estate and guardian of her son and heir Richard.

What she doesn’t expect is to find the evil, controlling Montagu, a man who seems to have not a shred of humanity, murdered in his study. His head had been almost severed from his body with a knife and she is soon a murder suspect.

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Meanwhile, Silkstone has been wounded in a duel with Lydia’s former steward, the Right Honourable Nicholas Lupton, a man who may or may not have committed the grisly deed for which Lydia stands accused.

Despite his injury, Silkstone hopes to clear his beloved’s good name by conducting a post mortem examination on the victim. With a bit of detective work, he discovers that Montagu’s throat was slit by no ordinary blade, but a ceremonial Sikh dagger from India, a clue that may be connected to the fabled lost diamond mines of Golconda.

From the mysterious disappearance of a cursed diamond buried with Lydia’s late husband to the undying legend of a hidden treasure map, Silkstone must follow a trail of foreign dignitaries, royal agents, and more murder victims, to unveil the sinister and shocking secrets in the gem stones...

Fast paced and loaded with surprise discoveries and some shocking twists, Secrets in the Stones sees Harris on top form with Silkstone and Lydia battling ruthless enemies to solve a murder mystery that has its roots in the heart of colonial India.

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As always, Harris manages to breathe new life and colour into some of history’s forgotten events as her riveting story of death, lies and treachery slowly builds to a gripping climax.

History, mystery and romance in perfect harmony…

(Constable, paperback, £8.99)