Crow Court by Andy Charman

Spring, 1840. In the Dorset market town of Wimborne Minster, a young choirboy drowns himself. Soon after, the choirmaster―a belligerent man with a vicious reputation―is found murdered, in a discovery tainted as much by relief as it is by suspicion. The gaze of the magistrates falls on four local men, whose decisions will reverberate through the community for years to come. So begins the chronicle of Crow Court, unravelling over fourteen delicately interwoven episodes, the town of Wimborne their backdrop: a young gentleman and his groom run off to join the army; a sleepwalking cordwainer wakes on his wife’s grave; desperate farmhands emigrate. We meet the composer with writer’s block; the smuggler; a troupe of actors down from London; and old Art Pugh, whose impoverished life has made him hard to amuse. Meanwhile, justice waits…


It is an odd feeling to know that you are reading an exceptional debut, yet know that for me it didn’t quite sit right. I can’t emphasis enough that Crow Court by Andy Charman is a clever and beautifully written, but it left me wanting more! Firstly I will illustrate why I felt I needed something further and then, because this was a very personal reaction to the novel, layout the reasons you should still read it.

In Crow Court Andy Carman is less concerned with the murder of the choirmaster and more with the consequences of the event that ripple through the months and years following it. This is it’s greatest strength and one he carries off with great skill, for he is certainly a talent to look out for in the future. Why I was left a little disconcerted was I wanted a little more of the lives and events he covers. I wanted the story to feel a little more concentrated, so I could get a better feel for the characters and their emotions. But this is simply my own feeling, I love character heavy books and I felt it was lacking that for me.

But given that this was not the aim of the book, others rightly will read the same novel and not be bothered by this. So why should you read Crow Court?

It is an excellent look at how one event is not isolated from the natural passage of time, it creates ripples that stretch through years to come and has consequences for not just those involved, but the people they love, their families and friends. He deals with his main theme by following those who knew the murdered man and looks at how they deal with his death, leaving us to wonder who it is that killed him. The uncertainty is handled with accomplishment, leaving me full of apprehension about who amongst this essentially good group of men if any was driven to murder. He explores their morality, the things that connect them to the choirmaster and why the eye of the local magistrate falls upon them. Therefore it is the events more than the characters themselves, informed by their personal circumstances, that create the story. Andy Charman’s exceptional look at how human nature, both flawed and passionate, weak and strong informs the actions of these men, produces a narrative of depth and scope and ensures the reader never second guesses the eventual conclusion, because it is satisfying and clever.

The thriller element is drawn out over a long period of time and I really enjoyed that. Many modern thrillers allow the shock element to overpower the story completely. Here the story is teased out and the reader gets to embrace the era and the patterns of intrigue that flow out of one mans death. So many writers forget that readers like to be played with, teased, but they also want to wallow in a story that wraps them in a different time and era. Not Andy Charman, who writes a story that could inhabit anytime or space, but still be a utterly gripping page turner.

I’m looking forward to what the writer does next.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

Andy Charman was born in Dorset and grew up near Wimborne Minster, where Crow Court is set. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies and magazines, including Pangea and Cadenza. Crow Court is his first novel, which he worked on at the Arvon course at The Hurst in Shropshire in 2018. Andy lives in Surrey and is available for interview, comment and events.

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