Meg Elizabeth Atkins (1932-2013) was raised in Manchester in the U.K. and had a variety of careers from stable hand to secretary, before her first novel, The Gemini, was published in 1964. Her two primary series were one featuring Inspector Sheldon Hunter and another with Manchester C.I. Henry Beaumont. Most of Atkins's books are set in the stereotypical English village, filled with psychological studies spurred by what Tangled Web UK called "the almost demonic undercurrents beneath the polite and genteel surface of English middle-class life."
At the start of her novel Tangle, Arnold Peabody visits local medium Madame Lily after his mother dies to see if he can contact her from beyond the grave. Not long afterward, he takes up with a mysterious lady friend and things are looking up — until he drowns himself. Six months later, wealthy widow and "nerve-racking snob," Mildred Hewitt, falls to her death on a snowy night. Hewitt's son Gilbert also decides to visit Madame Lily and soon he, too, has a mysterious lady friend...and slowly begins a descent into insanity.
C.I. Henry Beaumont has often visited Avenridge, the town where the deaths take place, ever since he was sent there as a child, a wartime evacuee who stayed with the wealthy Dash family. His knowledge of the area and its people leads him to suspect the deaths weren't accidental. With the assistance of the quirky young Emmeline Dash, Henry starts to piece together the threads of hate that tie the crime together, but not in time to save a lost soul who comes to him for help. With three deaths now to solve, Henry knows he's running out of time before his cunning, malevolent quarry strikes again.
Although a little slow getting started, the prose tends to liven up when we're seeing the world through Henry's eyes instead of the third-person omniscient POV. The characterizations are sound for the most part, with some nice touches regarding setting, such as the following two excerpts:
Here long-vanished men, philoprogenitive, prosperous, had built their houses amongst tree-shaded roads and curving lanes...And the people who could afford to live in the houses could afford to maintain them with discretion: a renovation here, an improvement there, did so little to interrupt he continuity that a century and a half of domestic architecture stood preserved in all its minutely recorded evolutions, in an atmosphere of tender melancholy.
After a late breakfast they took the dogs and went out, walking through the rain to the old hotel where Emmeline had her workshop. Henry wore his hooded anorak, Emmeline something that looked like a groundsheet, her hair pushed under a W.A.A.F. officer's cap. Scarcely anyone was about, rivulets rushed along the gutters of the up and down streets and the greyness of Avenridge, its changing textures, came back with love and wonder to Henry. The sky phosphorescent before snow; the chiffon veils of mist; the autumn grey of woodsmoke, and in this downpour, the stone buildings shining like old pewter.
This is the fourth and last of the C.I. Harry Beaumont novels, which is a shame because the character has a lot of room for growth and development. Some of Atkins' other novels start to dip a bit into the horror/supernatural realm, perhaps inspired by the author's nonfiction work, Haunted Warwickshire: A Gazetteer of Ghosts and Legends. Her books are mostly out of print, although Black Dagger released Tangle in 2005 both as a print and audiobook.