Edmund Bullick spars with imperious solicitor Crake to discover the truth about a disputed family will and the death of his father in SA Catterall’s Hob Hole. But Crake, with a ‘heavy gold chain that swung from his pinstriped waistcoat’ and ‘simply [oozing] confidence’ is tight-lipped following the death of top Durham trainer James ‘Jimmy’ Bullick while riding on the moors with the Derwent of Braes Hunt. ‘We lawyers are not engaged to form opinions on such matters,’ the imperturbable Crake tells Edmund.
When Edmund accompanies undertaker Seaton to identify his father in the mortuary at Dryburn Hospital, he encounters the officious Sergeant Tench – first officer to the coroner – who also seems to have something to hide. Dismissing Edmund’s request for an inventory of his father’s possessions, Tench growls: ‘Your father’s records are government property.’
Author: SA Catterall
Edmund, stunned after his father was reportedly thrown from a horse in a thunderstorm and perturbed as to why somebody should remove a page from his father’s journal, is unstinting in his efforts to establish the truth. Edmund detects treachery on the Craven estate, where his father looked after horses for Lord William and his wife Lady Alanna. Familial loyalties are not what they seem, especially when Lord William’s detestable son Julian is around, though how much wickedness he actually perpetuates in this story is tantalisingly unclear.
Hob Hole – a cave where monks used to store ice and provisions – is at the heart of a subplot concerning Edmund’s love for the ravishing Victoria. While their relationship hints at darker motives, their scenes – like many of Catterall’s descriptions – are overwritten and pale beside the intensity of a will reading or Edmund’s dust-up at the offices of Baxter, Crake and Lockwood.
Ultimately, it is Edmund and younger brother Alfie’s unquenchable love for their father that make this an authentic tale of sibling loyalty.
Nicholas Goodman is a sub-editor at the Law Society Gazette