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The Language of the Dead

(Inspector Lamb #1)

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  499 ratings  ·  84 reviews
German bombers are arriving daily, seeking to crush England. But in a rural Hampshire village, things have remained fairly quiet—until an elderly loner, Will Blackwell, is brutally murdered. The method of his killing bears the hallmarks of the traditional vanquishing of a witch, and indeed, local legend claims that as a boy, Blackwell encountered a ghostly black dog sent f ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 15th 2015 by Pegasus Books (first published April 8th 2015)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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Ken Tardell
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fans of BBC's "Foyle's War" detective series will enjoy this excellent first novel. Set in rural England during the days of the blitz, it relates the story of a small town police force investigating a series of murders, while at the same time dealing with the fear and uncertainty of the war, and the social upheavals it has caused. While some of the character development slows down the pace of the plot a bit, it appears to be laying the groundwork for what I hope will be an ongoing series of stor ...more
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
German bombs are falling nightly on rural England in 1940 and Detective Inspector Thomas Lamb is worrying about the safety of his daughter, Vera, who has taken a job as air raid warden in the Hampshire village of Quimby, when he receives word an elderly man has been brutally murdered in the same village.

When Lamb and his team arrive in the village they learn the man had been accused of witchcraft and had been killed in the same manner as had an accused woman in 1882.

As they delve into the case,
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

I guess this idea of setting British mysteries during World War II is a trend, as this has to be at least the fourth series that is doing it.

It's the darkest days of the war for the British, as the Nazis are bombing the blighty shores almost daily. Most all of the young men are joining the armed forces, and a lot of women are also trying to contribute, including the daughter of our protagonist, DI Thomas Lamb.

Throughout the war, more prosaic killings take p
susan nolan
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
If you are a fan of BBC series Foyle's War you might like this.
Solid read, historical mystery. The setting was interesting to me in that it takes place during WWII but in the English countryside with the German Stukas just starting to make forays into Southampton and surrounding areas. The war isn't part of the story, really, but background to it.

I didn't like how the perspective kept shifting, sometimes from one paragraph to another (it doesn't bother me when it changes from one chapter to another, but such quick changes were a bit jarring and sometimes h
Feb 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
Altogether too much---we have a witch, a black dog (a ghost), a German bomber (told from his view) who appears in only 2 chapters, a girl who is pregnant (no husband), a mentally-disabled boy, a gambling Inspector, a sergeant who drinks way too much and is also a womanizer, a woman who is somewhat sexually adventurous (and who is marred to a man who is fighting somewhere), the neighbors who 'protect' her....and most of them are not even major players in the story. Just too much ...more
Anne, Unfinished Woman
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of "Foyle's War" and of Anthony Horowitz
3.5 stars rounded up for light on plot but strong on characterizations, locales and historical background.
I knew right from the start who the killer was. It was an easy plot to follow, with no real side issues, other than some typical romances-gone-wrong which were pretty generic and mainly served to provide grist for the next books in the series.
What I found most interesting was the author's deft inclusion of an autistic character. The word "autism" is never used, which is great because I don't
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
A not too bad WWII mystery about a series of murders in a small English town racked by bombings. There's a mysterious boy who says little but leaves provocative drawings, a rich British lord of the manor, and a police sergeant having a torrid affair with a married woman. Much of the atmosphere seems right on target (pardon the pun), although there's too much about the affair for my taste. Inspector Thomas Lamb, a WWI veteran, seems a decent sort, willingly to put in the time and energy to solve ...more
Heather Lewis
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book reads and feels like an American trying to write as an English person. The number of times I had to read the word 'bloody' and 'fag' was unbearable. The plot was weak to say the least. I felt as if every time the book was becoming boring he would throw in a dead body. Like other reviewers have stated there was too much going on; a woman committing adultery, a woman being abused for committing adultery, children being molested, an unmarried pregnant seventeen year old, a random German b ...more
Annie Oosterwyk
This was a satisfying book that got a little rushed and uneven at the end. The author has strong characters (even the minor roles have been fleshed out) and there is a real sense of what it must have been like to live during WWI in England.
My comment about the ending was that the wrap-up seemed to come out of nowhere, in a "gotcha" moment. This resolution betrayed the author's character building of the villain and seemed forced.
Overall I like the author's style and would read another one when i
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An astounding mystery by talented newcomer Stephen Kelly. What holds this story together so well is its original characters. Quite frankly, if you had told me I would stay up at night reading a murder mystery set in England during World War II, I'd have told you that you were nuts. But damned if Kelly didn't deliver with a genuine page turner. I came to love Detective Inspector Lamb (and his family). And I can't wait for his return. A great summer read that I heartily recommend! ...more
Jun 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
A difficult start with too many characters introduced at once. Once I was able to keep track the storyline picked up. The suspense built up toward the end but the ending was flat. It was very much a summary of who did what and how. As a first novel, it was better than many and the author has great potential. The period of Britain during WWII is a very interesting backdrop for a suspense novel. If this is the first of a series to come, I'm sure it will only get better. ...more
World War II has left the local police force in rural Hampshire understaffed and overworked. Can they even expect resources to be taken from the tense Battle of Britain raging overhead--for a murder? Will Blackwell was a solitary figure, reviled as a witch by many. But why was he murdered now? And how is the strange, mute boy who spends his time drawing pictures of insects involved?
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, historical
There was a lot going on in this story, and it might have been okay, except for the fact that the pov switches were way too frequent - I mean, sometimes from paragraph to paragraph. Nobody's pov is spared - we even got the pov of a tertiary character (a German pilot) for the five seconds it took for him to crash his plane - that's not a true spoiler, I hope. The mystery itself is pretty adequate. ...more
Dec 11, 2015 rated it liked it
This reads like something that would be a Masterpiece Theatre movie on PBS and there's nothing wrong with that. While I liked Vera as a character, I could've done without the Arthur subplot, but the rest of it was nicely done. I put on my sleuthing hat & figured it all out before the end, but I enjoyed the journey (view spoiler). ...more
Leslie Angel
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
I think too many characters with not enough depth in them. Good setting.
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
i read the second book in this series first and it was pretty good, so I went back and read this one. I liked this first in the series, too: the setting of southern England during WW2 was a good one and the author captured the feeling of unsettlement and social change that the war brought (both my parents were WW2 veterans). I agree with other reviewers that there was a lot going on, but in my mind that was to establish the characters that will be part of a longer series. (At least, I hope so--o ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: drama, historical, mystery
During WWII in England, Inspector Lamb is called to a murder in a small town on the south coast. It’s a brutal one, of a man locally rumored to be a witch. It’s quickly followed by more murders as Lamb and his team try to unpick all the strands of what’s going on. What’s the role of the intellectually challenged boy who draws beautiful insects? Why was the teenager with no apparent connection to the case murdered? What’s the role of Lord Pembroke’s summer residency for orphans, or the role of th ...more
Kirkus Reviews summed the book up thusly: "Perhaps too many subplots for Kelly to knit together with complete success but by no means too many to keep readers absorbed to the end." I concur. There is an awful lot going on in this book. I was able to follow most of it, despite the large number of peripheral characters, some of whom had similar names.

Once you've got (view spoiler), part of the story suggests itself. But then you've got witchcraf
Virginia Van
While German bombers are flying overhead, life in a small village in Hampshire village remains peaceful until Will Blackwell, an elderly loner, is brutally murdered, a murder that bears the hallmarks of the traditional killing of a witch. Then a more deaths follow, that of a pregnant young woman whose fighter pilot lover is violently killed and a local drunkard whose hit over the head. Detective Inspector Thomas Lamb struggles to see what connection there might be among these crimes other than, ...more
Kathy Smuz
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I love mysteries set in English villages and I enjoyed how Kelly wound the everyday lives of the World War II era into the plot. I also liked the character of Thomas Lamb -- very human, with faults and weak spots, but very likable. That said, I felt there was too much going on in the way of subplots that sometimes touched only peripherally on the plot. I think someone else commented on how the ending felt rushed; to me it was more a case of "I'll just have the murderer explain everything in the ...more
Jodi Pomerleau
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I almost gave up on this book, but decided to plow on..and I am glad I did. It starts out rather slowly, and really didn't grab me until a couple of chapters in. I liked the characters, especially Peter who struggled to get a message across to the few he considered friendly faces. It took a while to understand the message, but once done, it solved the mystery of the murders in the village. The side stories of the Nazi pilot and Vera/Arthur were interesting. I will definitely be seeking out #2 in ...more
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Skillfully crafted and fast paced, this book kept me on the edge of my seat. The way the final pieces of the mystery fell into place and how the author revealed the true killer was so perfectly orchestrated and written that I saw it unfolding perfectly in my head as I read! Such detail and yet so much surprise at the end! Very fun read for any mystery lover!
Aug 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Sometimes a book just does not work for me.The Language of the Dead was difficult to finish. Inspector Lamb is just ordinary. Please read the Billy Boyle novels by James Benn or watch the Foyle's War PBS series if you are looking for a World War II setting. ...more
Linda Ollis
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
An intriguing mix of post-war mentality, British small town suspense and a little of the supernatural makes for an entertaining read. Not as much emphasis on Inspector Lamb this time, but his common sense prevails!
Margaret1358 Joyce
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Atmospheric to the nth degree, nicely plotted and very humanistic, here's a great 1st offering of what will evidently be an Inspector Lamb series, set in a small English village rife with superstitious and colorful characters. A satisfying read! ...more
Mar 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting story taking place during bombing raids in rural England during WW II. A quiet village becomes a deadly place involving farmers, Lords, orphans, possible witchcraft, and an Inspector with a past that resurfaces. I will probably check out the second in the series.
Karen Schnakenberg
Mar 06, 2021 rated it liked it
Always glad to discover another well-written police procedural with interesting characters and setting, in this case southern England during WW2. Only two more so far in series but I'm looking forward to them ...more
Anah Gilmore
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good novel, although slow at points. The plot continues to twist and thicken, as Kelly weaves together multiple narratives to a single climax.
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I've always loved reading good mystery novels, especially those from the English masters -- Conan Doyle, Dame Agatha, Colin Dexter, Peter Robinson and others. I'm also a huge fan of the Norwegian crime novelist, Karin Fossum. Before turning to writing fiction with a vengeance, though, I was, for nearly thirty years, a newspaper reporter, editor and columnist. My work has appeared in the Baltimore ...more

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