Outwardly bluff and cheerful, the protagonist of this tale, Stephen Whalby, likes nothing better than roaming for hours among the hills, heather and tors of Vangmoor. But on one such solitary ramble, Stephen chances upon the body of a young woman, strangled, and with what must have been silken blonde hair cropped off roughly at her scalp.
The finding upsets Stephen, though it's difficult to detect that from the casual excitement with which he shares the finding with Lyn, his wife:
'You weren't long.'Even so, the event sets Stephen back on his heels, because the moor is more to him than just a place for respite and solitude. No one knows its paths, its stones, its forgotten mines and secret passages better than he does. He's come to feel a sense of ownership. He's even lately begun authoring a column in the local paper in which he styles himself as "The Voice of Vangmoor."
'I hadn't got far. Oh, Lord, darling, there's something pretty ghastly up there. A girl and she's dead. I found her lying among the Foinmen.'
It occurred to Lyn -- fleetingly, to be gone in a moment -- that most men would have broken such a thing more gently to their wives.
Soon, when another blonde woman goes missing and Stephen insinuates himself into the search, he begins to think of himself as 'Master of the Moor.' Stephen's desire to control all that occurs on the moor becomes a compulsion.
The effect of Stephen's obsession with the moor on the narrative complications is brilliant. Stephen's actions -- discovering the first body and then leading the search for the next -- place him in the unenviable position of prime suspect in the eyes of the local police.
Even Miss Lemon began to wonder about Stephen as his breezy outward behaviour soon shifted to reveal a darker interior. With all his 'Good Lords' and 'Good griefs,' one doesn't know whether his exasperation is simply good-humoured bemusement or something more sinister.
Of the final scene, Miss Lemon will say but this: it leaves one gasping for breath.
In all, Master of the Moor, with its moody setting and psychological suspense, is just the sort of novel to read as October drifts darkly into November.