The second Teifi Coroner historical mystery, In Two Minds, by Alis Hawkins, is due out in May. Read what Alis has to say about it.
This is the cover of the next book in the Teifi Valley Coroner series, due out in May this year.
I’m delighted with the lovely, atmospheric cover design by Jem Butcher but do you know what those stone structures in the foreground are?
They’re lime kilns.
At the beginning of In Two Minds a naked body is discovered on a beach, lying in the surf on a load of limestone, dumped from a ship ready for processing. So lime burning was one of the first things I had to learn about when I started research for the book.
I knew, from a very early age, that Cardiganshire farmers needed to spread powdered lime on their fields because I saw my dad doing it. I remember watching the tractor bouncing around the fields below our farmhouse with a huge cloud of whitish powder billowing out behind it. Cardiganshire soils are very acidic and need a good dose of alkaline limestone to balance things up and make the soil more productive.
So how did lime kilns work?
The round chamber was filled with tons of limestone and coal and this mixture was burned for up to three days until all the coal was gone and the chemical makeup of the rock had changed. The end result was quicklime. And, as Harry learns in the book, quicklime is dangerous stuff – there were examples of carts carrying it back to Cardiganshire farms from coastal kilns spontaneously combusting because the quicklime had come into contact with water. (Guess what the water was? Clue: West Wales. Yes, correct, rain.)
But when quicklime is ‘slaked’ – ie mixed with water in a controlled way – it turns into something that’s useful in both building and agriculture.
What it isn’t useful for – as Harry discovers in In Two Minds – is dissolving bodies.
For more details about In Two Minds or to pre-order, click here.