It’s very rare that I visit somewhere such as a church, museum, local interest centre, visit information centre for example, and don’t come away without at least one booklet/leaflet/guide book about the place, its notable citizens or the area around. I’ve got dozens of them, some of places I’ll never return to, some which are very dull, some which are interesting even if I had never been there at all! Recently on our writers’ trip to Lynmouth we went into the local National Trust centre and shop and I came away with several. I have just finished reading a book I bough there about a murder and the mysteries surrounding it which happened in 1929.
Its title alone intrigued me, ‘The Girl on Codsend Moor’, written by Matthew Greenwood, and subtitled ‘The mysterious disappearance and death of Molly Phillips’. I glanced through it and it struck me as well-written, well-researched and a sad but intriguing mystery, so of course I bought it. Codsend Moor is on Exmoor in Somerset and is a peat moor which has had people living near and on it since prehistoric times. The blurb on the back of the book reads ‘On one of the hottest days of 1929, sixteen year old Molly Phillips set out from the Exmoor out from the Exmoor farm at which she worked to visit her great-aunt in a nearby village. She never arrived. Eighteen months later, two men burning rough grass on a local moorland made a gruesome discovery.’
Matthew’s book has incredible research and detail and takes the reader on a journey to try and unpick the strange, peculiar, and sometimes sinister events and investigation into what happened to Molly. There is a welter of information on the various police procedures, the local bigwigs who were involved and the various characters whose relationship with the truth seems somewhat distant. Unlike fiction, there is no tidy ending, there is no absolute answer to the question of what happened to poor Molly, but Matthew certainly seems to have his own ideas which he hints at while leaving the reader to make up their own minds. I found it very interesting and thought provoking – and although ‘enjoyed’ seems the wrong way to describe this tragic true story, it was very engaging.