(Cover picture courtesy of Gary Dolman’s website.)
Commissioned Investigators Atticus and Lucie Fox are summoned by the bombastic Sir Hugh Lowther to his estate in remote Northumberland to investigate a series of bizarre, grisly deaths. These appear to centre on the delusions of a madman who lives alone at the edge of the moors. Close-by is the long-vanished castle of Sewingshields where local legends say King Arthur still lies in an enchanted sleep, waiting to be awoken at a time of great need.
The killings have all been committed using the Hallows of Arthur, artefacts thought to have been lost in history, and the locals swear that they have seen a ghostly knight in armour roaming the moors for months. But how can that be? This is 1890 and King Arthur died over thirteen-hundred years before.
There are seven artefacts in total, and Atticus and Lucie must find the killer before each is used in turn. To do so, they must journey through the very darkest places of the mind of a madman.
[Full disclosure: The publisher of this book, Thames River Press, contacted me and provided me with a free print book in exchange for an honest review.]
When I first started Red Dragon – White Dragon I was a little skeptical. I mean, gothic mysteries are not and weren’t really ever my thing. They all seemed so predictable that there was no point in reading them anyway. Heck, I’ve never even read a Sherlock Holmes book from cover to cover. You could say I’m not a mystery person in general. But wow, I was impressed with Red Dragon – White Dragon.
Gary Dolman’s novel had just the right mixture of realism and Arthurian legend to keep me guessing at every turn. And the ending—amazing! Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, even if you’ve guessed the villain already, there is a huge twist that completely blindsides you. That twist is what makes me classify this as a gothic mystery because it was so dark and disturbing. In truth, it really goes along with the whole dark, dreary setting as well.
Lucie and Atticus Fox weren’t your typical detectives, believe me. Although they seem like stereotypical gothic investigators at the beginning of the novel, you realize they do have a lot more depth as their characters are allowed to develop a little more. Lucie in particular really shone through when at the beginning I had completely discounted her. She has some very modern sensibilities when it comes to mental illnesses and homosexuality, but they’re actually explained sufficiently by her experiences as a nurse. Atticus does not share some of her sensibilities and Sir Hugh is pretty much the exact opposite.
Red Dragon – White Dragon is one of my favourite mysteries right now not only because of the plot, but because of Gary Dolman’s writing. He has a way of describing things that makes you feel like you’re really there in the dreary English countryside with Lucie and Atticus. The castle, the landscape, everything is described vividly without being too boring. I can’t comment on the historical accuracy of this novel, but it does seem like Gary Dolman did his research for this.
I would definitely recommend this book to both old mystery lovers and people who don’t read many mysteries like myself.
I give this book 5/5 stars.