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People come up with all sorts of conspiracy theories years after an event is long buried in the past like who murdered Jack Kennedy, or did Marilyn Monroe die of natural causes?

But even centuries afterwards some unlikely mysteries are solved, think how they found the burial place of Richard III in 2012.

So, has a North Somerset journalist solved the riddle of the Maid of the Haystack?

Over 248 pages Martin J Powell delves into the extraordinary facts, fiction and fable of a beautiful foreign women who lived in a hayrick in a field at Flax Bourton.

Louise is the young lady roughing it in all weathers through four exhausting years supported by kindly country folk who are living In ramshackle cottages near by.

The book is littered with the names of North Somerset places - including Naylsey - and personalities of yesteryear.

Painters, poets, even the jilted religious academic Hannah More features along with Royal Academy of Arts president Sir Joshua Reynolds.

The brotherly love among masons and Miss More’s merchant fiancé William Turner are linked with homophobic references - can that be true?

The other question to answer is does the writer, a Bristol public relations professional and journalist with a passion for local history, solve the mystery?

The former Bristol Post chief reporter, Martin, who is now boss of Empica PR at Wraxall, did extensive research to put together this great yarn set in the 1790s and based (we are led to believe) on true events.

The whims of patronage by the wealthy, rumours of connections with European royalty and macabre medical practices especially towards the mentally ill are all in this book which is a good if unsettling read about a cause célèbre during the reign of George III.

Book review

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Dr Peter Carpenter,  treasurer and volunteer at Glenside Hospital Museum found this portrait in the Wellcome Collection online of the lady in question.

Some say she was the dumped wife of a Hessian officer fighting for the British in North America.

We don't think Martin who uses the word 'maid', which means an unmarried young woman or virgin, in the title goes for that version.

Others say she was the natural daughter of the emperor Francis - born the wrong side of the blanket, maybe?

Martin’s five-star paperback version is priced at £14.00 and available at

All copies of Maid of the Haystack will be signed by the author.

It made jolly good summer holiday reading.

Carol Deacon

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