Peter Robinson was born in Yorkshire in 1950, and is probably best known for his series of Inspector Banks novels. "Caedmon's Song" was first published in 1990, and was the first of his books set away from Banks' world.
Whitby is a coastal town in the north-east of England, and apparently relies heavily on the fishing and tourism industries. When Martha Browne arrives in Whitby in the early autumn, she doesn't have much bother finding a guest house. However, while she tells her landlord she's in town to research a book, it's pretty clear she's arrived to cause someone in Whitby a great deal of trouble. More than that, it seems she may be a little unhinged. (She has arrived with a `talisman' - a small, glass paperweight - and appears to believe that Caedmon - a poet who lived in Whitby in the 7th Century - "was the one who had called her here.")
Kirsten, on the other hand, has just finished her university exams, and will soon be graduating with first class honours. She's originally from just outside Bath, in the south of England - which, of course, means a rich family - although she chose to study in the north. In a bid to stay away from home, she and her boyfriend, Galen, are planning on taking postgrad courses in Toronto. On the night we meet her, she's celebrating her exam results with some friends - although Galen is at home, following his grandmother's death. The group of friends have had their difficulties over the years, but they've all remained close. (Hugo would prefer he and Kirsten were a little closer, but she's a devoted girlfriend to Galen). After being thrown out of the pub, they go to a party at a friends place for a while. Kirsten leaves alone, and walks home through the park - where she is, unfortunately, attacked. She only comes round ten days later, in hospital, with no memory of what happened to her. However, bearing in mind what actually happened to her, that may be something of a blessing...
The book switches back and forward, laying out Kirsten's recovery and Martha's search side by side. Martha seems a very cold, calculating individual and there's very little in the way of warmth or tenderness about her - but, right from the off, there's clearly a link between the two women. It doesn't take too long to figure out exactly what the link is - I suspect most will have it worked out a little more quickly than Robinson hoped for when he wrote the book. It's a little unbelievable at times, and it is a little dated too - you wuoldn't get a B&B for £9.50 today, while Kirsten's music collection is largely on cassette and not CD (or even MP3s, for that matter). At times, I found Robinson's writing is so formal it was nearly funny : Russell, apparently, "sure knew how to choose party music" while one of Kirsten's doctors actually says "And so you jolly well should". However, it's an easy enough read overall and it's a good deal better than some others I've read recently.