Anyone who has been on this blog for any length of time knows that this is one of my favourite authors as I find her detailed worldbuilding, steady accumulation of clues and layered, complex characterisation adds up to a thoroughly satisfying read. See my review of her first book in this series, The Detective’s Daughter. I had acquired this copy at a book signing and reading and then put it down in the kitchen, where it promptly got buried under a pile of other books. I was delighted when I unearthed it…
Queen’s Jubilee, 1977: Cassie Baker sees her boyfriend kissing another girl at the village disco. Upset, she heads home alone and is never seen again.
Millennium Eve, 1999: DCI Paul Mercer finds Cassie’s remains in a field. Now he must prove the man who led him there is guilty.
When Mercer’s daughter asks Stella Darnell for help solving the murder, Stella see echoes of herself. Another detective’s daughter. With her sidekick sleuth, Jack, Stella moves to Winchcombe, where DCI Mercer and his prime suspect have been playing cat and mouse for the past eighteen years…
Stella Darnell’s father was a detective married to the job – and Stella bears the scars. She set up and now runs her own very successful cleaning company, but is increasingly drawn to the drama and tension surrounding the business of solving cold-case murders. Jack, her partner in these investigations also has a fascinating backstory, which I won’t be revealing here as it wanders into spoiler territory. Each of them is a loner, and I enjoyed the increasing tension as they now both feel uncomfortable keeping secrets from each other to an extent that occasionally trips into humour. Lucie Mae, local journalist and long-running character, also crashes into this investigation and brings along her budgie.
Thomson manages to evoke the countryside very well from the viewpoint of two confirmed Londoners as they rent a ramshackle cottage while investigating the crime. Her vivid worldbuilding is her superpower, as we get the sound and feel of Winchcombe and the sense of a tight-knit community, who nevertheless enjoy the chance to talk about the murdered girl, especially as her convicted killer is due to be released on parole. Though a fair few people don’t believe he committed the crime.
I found it difficult to put this one down as Jack and Stella steadily gather evidence and red herrings, while someone is also trying to persuade them to walk away. As ever, I didn’t guess who the murderer was until I was supposed to – and this time in particular, there is a development near the end that means Jack’s life is about to change forever. The thing I find with Thomson’s books, is that once I’ve finished reading one, the characters and situation goes on living in my head. And no… that isn’t usual for me. Normally once I’ve put a book down and written the review, I usually move onto the next book and rarely recall it. But Stella and Jack have wriggled into my inscape and rearranged my mental furniture. Highly recommended for fans of intelligent, murder mysteries set in a vivid contemporary setting.