Review of ‘Murder and Mystery in The Peak’, by Roly Smith

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 18th October 2004, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

MURDER AND MYSTERY IN THE PEAK
by Roly Smith

This new book published by Halsgrove is an intriguing prospect from an author whose feet are usually firmly, and quite literally, on the ground. Armed with his wide knowledge of the Peak, Roly Smith brings together hard fact, legend and occasionally unnerving personal experience to re-interpret tales of misdeeds and inexplicable happenings. He visits sites connected with mermaids, Arthurian legend, Celtic myths, Robin Hood and worship of the old gods, and owns up to places which have raised the hairs on the back of his neck. Whether or not conducted in the interests of research, one 'experience' is illustrated with a photograph of a very uncomfortable- looking author.

An infamous screaming skull is discussed in a chapter wittily entitled Skulduggery, sandwiched between stories of haunted lead mines, underground murders, a widow's curse, lost villages and a modern-day link between the plague and an equally fearful modern-day disease. Similarly, Roly recreates scenes of ethnic cleansing carried out by 'storm troopers' who devastated whole villages in some of the most beautiful parts of the Peak, where'it is said that 100,000 people perished ... Nobody remained to bury the corpses ... Nothing moved in the scorched ruins of villages but the packs of wolves and wild dogs which tore apart the human corpses...'

Small wonder that Roly Smith describes his discoveries as 'an uncomfortable trawl through some of the older and blacker aspects of the Peak's ancient, and in some cases more recent, past.' Indeed he has cast his net to include a controversial murder mystery on our own doorstep.

If you like your bedtime reading macabre, Murder and Mystery in the Peak is spot on. Published by Halsgrove at £6.95 and widely available locally (ISBN 1-84114-393-3).

Review by Julie Bunting


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