Those Who Know by Alis Hawkins #BookReview #BlogTour


Harry Probert-Lloyd has inherited the estate of Glanteifi and appointed his assistant John as under-steward. But his true vocation, to be coroner, is under threat. Against his natural instincts, Harry must campaign if he is to be voted as coroner permanently by the local people and politicking is not his strength.

On the hustings, Harry and John are called to examine the body of Nicholas Rowland, a radical and pioneering schoolteacher whose death may not be the accident it first appeared. What was Rowland's real relationship with his eccentric patron, Miss Gwatkyn? And why does Harry's rival for the post of coroner deny knowing him?

Harry's determination to uncover the truth threatens to undermine both his campaign and his future.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Those Who Know today. Many thanks to Alis Hawkins and to Emily Glenister from The Dome Press for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

I adored Alis Hawkins' first book in the Teifi Valley Coroner series, None So Blind so only have myself to blame when it comes to admitting that it took me far too long to read the second novel, In Two Minds. Alas, I wasn't quite able to finish it before needing to start Those Who Know in time for the blog tour but I can at least now suggest that while each book can be enjoyed as a standalone, readers will benefit from reading the series in order, if possible.
As with the previous stories, Harry Probert-Lloyd is still acting coroner here but the election to appoint a permanent coroner is looming, meaning he now has to involve himself with politics. Electioneering is clearly not something he is comfortable doing but while it's easy to justify his position, his ambitiously fervent election agent, Jonas Minnever actually makes some good points which leads to Harry reassessing his attitude since his return to the Teifi Valley from London. The narrative alternates between Harry and his assistant, John and it's fascinating to see the ongoing development of their still uncertain working relationship and to learn of their different perspectives of the same events; particularly the manner in which their sharply contrasting upbringings continues to affect how they behave and how they are treated by all levels of society. Harry's blindness and the way he manages it, is an important part of the plot, of course and the acknowledgment of how it can be both a burden and an aid is handled with astute insight.
Although Those Who Know follows Harry and John's investigation into the death of a local schoolteacher, Nicholas Rowland, it's as much about the prejudices of society as it is the mystery as to how he died. One profoundly interesting scene finds John remembering the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales. Despite the dry sounding name, the lasting anger engendered by a biased report which was so critical of Welsh culture and language is powerfully evoked. Society at a more local level is examined too; the influence of the church and of prominent townsfolk is recognised as holding sway even over the pursuit of improvement and indeed, justice.
It's obvious from the start that Nicholas Rowland's death is unlikely to be an accident but I didn't realise just how dark or twisted the pursuit for the truth would become. Harry's investigation prior to the inquest into his death is hindered by the election and his guilt at his remiss in following all leads means he becomes ever more relentless as he attempts to save a man from the gallows even at the risk of his own ambitions.
One of the most pleasing aspects of this riveting story is that even though the characters don't appear to be in danger, the increasing sense of tension generated becomes almost too nerve-wracking as Harry and John try to discover what really happens before it's too late to save a man - and Harry's career. The candid exploration of Victorian society and especially the treatment of women is the real highlight of Those Who Know, however, and Alis Hawkins' powerful, persuasive words ensure that the unexpected ending is wholly gratifying.
Those Who Know is a superb novel; the  research that evidently went into writing it is utilised to rich effect, and the historical details - from the day-to-day elements to the discussions of a number of pertinent topics which colour both how characters behave and how we perceive their actions - are fascinating and thought-provoking. Harry Probert-Lloyd and John Davies are two of the most engaging characters in crime fiction and this atmospheric, cleverly plotted book is a compelling and immersive treat!

Those Who Know is published by The Dome Press and can be purchased directly from the publisher and from Hive, Waterstones, Amazon or ordered from independent bookstores.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Alis Hawkins grew up on a dairy farm in Cardiganshire. After attending the local village primary school and Cardigan County Secondary school, she left West Wales to read English at Oxford. Subsequently, she has has done various things with her life, including becoming a speech and language therapist, bringing up two sons, selling burgers, working with homeless people, and helping families to understand their autistic children.
​And writing. Always. Nonfiction (autism related), plays (commissioned by heritage projects) and, of course, novels.
​Alis’s first novel, Testament, was published in 2008 by Macmillan and was translated into several languages. (It has recently been acquired for reissue, along with her medieval trilogy of psychological thrillers by Sapere Books).Her current historical crime series featuring blind investigator Harry Probert-Lloyd and his chippy assistant, John Davies, is set in Cardiganshire in the period immediately after the Rebecca Riots. As a side-effect of setting her series there, instead of making research trips to sunny climes like more foresighted writers, she just drives up the M4 to see her family.
Now living with her partner on the wrong side of the Welsh/English border (though she sneaks back over to work for the National Autistic Society in Monmouthshire) Alis speaks Welsh, collects rucksacks and can’t resist an interesting fact.