A uniquely amusing and page-turning mystery novel set in January 2003, the eve of the Iraq War.
On sabbatical at Oxford University, Scottish teacher Judith Fraser is horrified to find a professor dead, a student missing and eccentric housemates who are not as they claim.
Whom can she trust? Is she being followed? And what is the relevance of ancient text fragments appearing from Iraq?
Aided by personable DCI Steadman and spirited Rhodes Scholar, Abbie Goldman, Judith unravels mysteries of locked doors, missing computers, cat’s collars and Reuter’s reports. Traumatized to the hilt by the kidnapping of her medical student daughter Sophie, Judith reappraises what’s important in life, learns not to trust first impressions, and finds power, sex and politics have changed little in three millennia.
Throw in the CIA, Saddam Hussein’s ancient king obsession, a glimpse of an Oxford underbelly and a hint of romance, to find a cross-genre novel for lovers of Helen Fielding, Lucy Foley, Agatha Christie and Dan Brown. Buy a copy
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Anne Pettigrew was a family doctor for 31 years and also has a degree in Medical Anthropology from Oxford. She wrote extensively in the national medical and lay press until retirement when she turned to penning novels about women doctors, discrimination, and crime. She was a Bloody Scotland Crime Fiction Festival 2019 Spotlight Author – ‘one to watch.’ Member of several writers’ groups and multiple short story competition winner, she lives in Ayrshire and enjoys good books, good wine, and good company.
Past novels: Apart from containing crime, Not The Life Imagined and Not The Deaths Imagined follow Dr Beth Slater’s career and challenges from the 1960s to the ‘80s. This latest stand-alone novel, The Carnelian Tree, charts the tribulations of Scots teacher Judith Fraser on sabbatical in Oxford at the time of the Iraq War.
My thoughts: I remember 2003, I was a teenager and the news was full of the threat of war in the Middle East and Bush and Blair’s fear-mongering.
This is set then, and a Stop the War protest even takes place in the later part of the book. It’s very interesting as some of the characters, like Jared, are caught up in things much bigger than them and related to what was happening in Iraq.
Judith is taking a sabbatical and doing an MA in Education – I’ve done an MA and they’re hard work so I appreciate that she has to keep rushing to finish her assignments, despite the murder and then the kidnapping of her daughter. I’m glad mine was less dramatic.
All of the terrible events are linked to some ancient clay tablets, smuggled out of Iraq, and an obsession with ancient kings like Gilgamesh and Nebuchadnezzar. The murdered professor was an expert in ancient history and was writing a new translation of Gilgamesh based on the clay tablets.
The book has lots of twists and turns, some characters turn out to be better than you expect and some very dodgy. I liked DCI Steadman, he was a nice and kind man as well as being an excellent copper. His fledgling romance with Judith was lovely.
I liked Judith and her friends too, Abbie gets really into investigating their suspicious housemate Guy and then starts branching out. If they decide teaching isn’t for them, she and Judith could easily open a PI agency!
Funny, clever and with plenty of strange occurrences, kidnappings, strange postal deliveries and spies, conspiracies and broken hearts to keep us all going. Really great read.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.