Catch a killer or save a child. What would you do?
DI Jen Flowers thought she’d seen it all after fifteen years on the force, but when a vigilante serial killer hits the city and uses social media to gather supporters, she must fight the public and her doubts to catch a murderer and save her daughter.
Suffering from blackouts and abandoned as a child by her father, Ruby Vasquez has been chasing that one scoop to make her an internet star. Living with an alcoholic mother who hates her, Ruby discovers a secret about the vigilante’s first victim, which puts her in the killer and DI Flowers’ sights.
Jen and Ruby have to overcome the secrets in their past while battling each other to discover the Hashtag Killer’s identity. Jen will have to choose between keeping her daughter safe or finding a killer, while Ruby will need to decide if becoming famous is more important than doing the right thing.
An original and timely police procedural with an abundance of twists along the way. The Hashtag Killer, as you might expect, uses the power of social media to bring the killings to the public’s attention, and wannabe influencer Ruby Vasquez cannot resist keeping the story alive with her blog posts.
From the moment Ruby realised she was first on the scene, she was in “detective” mode on the dark web, finding information that a regular internet user would not see about the victim. Her reporting of that info played a massive role in managing the public’s opinion of the victim, and rather than call out for the killer’s arrest, there was instead a sense of justice having been done in ridding society of a rapist. Suddenly, the killer became a vigilante whose actions were appreciated – definitely not the ideal scenario for the police’s investigation.
The story was told from various points of view – DI Jen Flowers, blogger-journo Ruby and the killer him/herself (no spoilers here!) Such an approach allowed the readers great insight into the lives of Jen and Ruby, and how the story impacted their lives. For me, the killer’s chapters were overwritten and full of excessive details that had me skimming ahead. It soon became clear that the person who “claimed” to be the killer couldn’t possibly be, and that aspect made the killer’s chapters a struggle for me to get through.
Things picked up considerably when looking at the investigation from DI Flower’s perspective, and with Ruby’s efforts to remain relevant in the cut-and-thrust world of social media. The friction between the police and the news reporting made for great tension and kept the story moving at a good pace, adding another layer of drama and anxiety to the police’s need to stay ahead of the game if they were to ever catch the killer.
An interesting and original take on a crime investigation, highlighting the difficult job the police have when public opinion is swayed by the force that is social media.
Julianna Baptiste, a feisty bodyguard, finds her new job tedious, that is until her boss, the evasive Jackson Haynes, spikes her curiosity. Who is behind the vicious threats to his beautiful wife and why is he interested in two estranged siblings?
Mark works for Haynes’s vast company. He’s hiding from ruthless money launderers.
His teenage sister Ellen has an online friend whom she has never met. Ellen guards a terrible secret.
For eight years their duplicitous father has languished in prison, claiming he is innocent of murder. The evidence against him is overwhelming, so why does Mark persist with an appeal?
Keen to prove her potential as an investigator, Julianna forces Mark to confront his mistakes. The consequences will put all their lives in danger.
Rae Shaw is a pen name for the author Rachel Walkley.
Rachel is based in the North West of England. She read her first grown-up detective novel at the age of eleven, which proved to be a catalyst for filling many shelves with crime books, which still occupy her home and grow in number whenever she visits a book shop.
As well as crime, Rachel likes to unplug from the real world and writes mysteries that have a touch of magic woven into family secrets.
Reluctant bodyguard, Julianna, is keeping a watch on her charge, Hettie, at an important fundraiser for a charity. Also there is Mark, a man she is covertly spying on for reasons she’s not entirely sure about. Mark has no clue that he’s also being watched, and his curiosity draws him to chat to Julianna.
‘Hi, Mark.’ Her attempt at nonchalance failed. She fidgeted with her earpiece.
‘Julianna. Haven’t seen you for a couple of weeks. What have you been up to?’
‘Oh, this and that. Keep doing weekend work for extra money. Tonight being an example.’
She was avoiding eye contact now, so overtly, he nearly laughed out loud. For an expert in blending into her environment, she wasn’t trying very hard. He shouldn’t mock. Julianna had a challenging job marking the Haynes family wherever they went. Hettie in particular wasn’t keen on the extra layers of protection. She had griped to Mark when he queried the cost of CCTV cameras in the gallery. Not for the art, she had glowered, for me. Jackson prized his wife beyond any artwork.
‘Where is she?’ he asked.
‘Over there. Chris is back by the door.’
She gestured and he spotted her. Hettie Haynes had bounced back from pregnancy brilliantly. Her dress, a turquoise number with silver slithers, was moulded around her hourglass hips and bountiful breasts. She shook hands, moved, spoke and shook hands again. The perfect hostess.
‘She doesn’t look as tired as last time I saw her,’ he said absent-mindedly.
‘She weaned the kid on to solids and since then the kid’s been sleeping like a baby should. Sleeping.’
Mark raised an eyebrow at Julianna’s knowledge of Hettie’s breast-feeding status.
‘Drove her last week and she made a point of saying how much better things were now that she has several successive hours sleep a night.’ She turned her face fractionally to Mark’s. ‘I don’t ask, she just spews this stuff out.’
‘You’re not keen on babies then.’ Mark couldn’t imagine Julianna spewing anything. Babies were different.
It wasn’t intended as a question, but Julianna pursed her lips, then smirked. ‘Not other people’s; I can’t help it.’
He tapped his nose a few times. ‘I’ll not tell her. Diplomacy suits you.’
‘Comes with the job. One mustn’t get too attached to the client.’
‘He wasn’t in the car then?’
She laughed. ‘Oh no. Definitely a different atmosphere when he’s in the car.’
Jackson would monopolise any conversation and make it his own. It explained her snark.
‘She’s on the move. I’ll have to change location. Wouldn’t do to lose her; that would be a serious black mark.’ Julianna toyed with the piece of wire around her neck.
‘String you up by the balls?’ Mark chortled, then abruptly cringed.
A smiley-faced Julianna rescued him. ‘Well, more likely my nipples, don’t you think?’ she said slyly and with a pronounced wink. She walked, purposely and carefully, to the other side of the room.
Mark raked his fingers through his hair. What a tease she had become since their first meeting. Was it a genuine attempt at provoking him into action? He needed more evidence. He rolled back the conversation to what she had said about Hettie. Each time he met somebody familiar with Jackson and Hettie Haynes he wondered how well they knew the couple. Julianna undoubtedly had insider information and was bound to secrecy about it.
A familiar voice spoke by his ear. ‘Mark, enjoying the evening?’
I can see her, shouting with laughter as she swings as high as she can, her beautiful blonde curls flying out behind her. I can feel her tiny hot hand in mine, and my heart aches. My little girl. If only I’d listened to my gut. Then maybe she’d be safe here with me…
When five-year-old Molly Reynolds is snatched from the park in the small village of Otterfield, Detective Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Noel throws herself into the search, sick with worry for the quiet, sensitive little girl and her distraught mother.
Wasting no time, Bernie finds a small green cardigan under a bush in the park. It still has the smiley face sticker Molly won that week at school. It’s the first in a chain of clues – and Bernie can’t shake the feeling that it was left deliberately, as a message.
But Bernie encounters a wall of silence. Otterfield is a close-knit community, yet no one in the village seems to care that Molly is missing at all. Why?
And then Bernie makes a chilling discovery: twenty-five years ago, another little girl went missing from the area. Her name was Sophie, and all they ever found of her was her teddy bear, hidden under a bush. Now Bernie knows she’s in a race against time to save Molly’s life.
Bernie’s team work round the clock to find a connection between the two girls, and just when they think they’re making progress a devastating tragedy strikes at the heart of the case. Molly’s family have been hiding a secret, and now their little girl is in greater danger than ever.
Can Bernie outwit the most warped criminal she has ever faced and bring Molly home safe, or will another innocent life be lost?
I’m always delighted to get in on the first book in a new police procedural series. Last Seen has set the bar very high and I’ll be looking out for Joy Kluver’s next book for sure.
Detective Bernadette (Bernie) Noel is a former Met Police officer and, at first, it’s not clear why she has transferred out of London to a Wiltshire town where the pace of life is decidedly slower. Nonetheless, she soon faces a major investigation when a five-year-old girl, Molly, goes missing from a local park.
Keen to get search parties organised, she is quick to start door-to-door enquiries with locals in the area, only to find them unwilling to get involved in the search. Mystified as to why none of them are interested in a child’s life, she pushes on. When they find a child’s fleece and a pushchair in the bushes with no prints or DNA other than the child’s, it becomes obvious that this was no random abduction.
Whilst this is going on, we learn a little more about Bernie’s past. Having just returned from a family funeral, she seems concerned that her whereabouts as the lead investigator will have revealed her identity. But to whom? On top of that, she fears a hand-delivered note may mean that they have already found her? But who is looking for her and why?
Struggling to move the case forward, Bernie soon finds her position leading the case is at risk. This only fuels her determination to find Molly, with or without the villagers’ help. Aided by a strong team who have the same goals, Bernie is able to double-down and slowly but surely the pieces begin to fit together. But can she find Molly before she is made to step aside?
The investigation soon raises questions about Molly’s family which seems to link her disappearance with another case many years before. As the secrets are revealed, the reason behind the villagers’ reluctance to help becomes known – and it’s a cunning and clever twist, though not one that sits comfortably with Bernie and her team. How can people leave a child’s life in danger as some sort of payback for past events? It is most curious and fascinating.
This story has a compelling mystery at its core but it is the strong cast of characters who carry it through to its conclusion along with family drama, intriguing backstory, and great teamwork and dedication from Bernie’s colleagues.
An excellent start to a new series. I’ll be back for more.
My thanks go to the author, Bookouture and Netgalley for my advanced copy which I have reviewed voluntarily and with pleasure.
Shivering in the early morning chill, the caretaker flips the switch on the Ferris wheel and stumbles back in shock. The teenage girl’s body is slumped in a halo of pretty colored lights, long red hair spilling over her tear-stained cheeks, her eyes fixed forever on her dangling feet.
When teenager Nikki Jackson’s body is found at an amusement park, just hours after Fourth of July fireworks lit up the night sky, the Lost Creek police rule her death as suicide––a devastating final act from a girl who had lost all hope. But the absence of the knife used to make the wounds on her delicate wrists makes Detective Madison Harper think otherwise. And the partial fingerprint found on the girl’s face proves her right. Someone else was with Nikki in her final moments…
Back home in Colorado for the first time in seven years to investigate the murder of a woman with ties to the son she lost to the care system, the pressure is on for Madison to work both cases at once. Fearing the team has missed a vital clue, Madison searches the crime scene alone and finds the last thing she ever expected: a note proving the victims knew each other, and that the cases are linked. Is this a coincidence, proof a dangerous murderer is on the loose, or a trap set to lead Madison off the trail?
It’s only when Madison finally finds the knife used to harm Nikki, tucked in an almost impossible to find hiding place, that she knows she is closing in on a twisted killer. But the last person she expects to see dragged into the department in handcuffs is her own missing son…
An absolutely unputdownable crime thriller that will have you sleeping with the lights on. Addictive reading for anyone who loves Lisa Regan, Robert Dugoni and Melinda Leigh.
Cry for Help picks up the story where Shadow Falls ended, with Madison and Nate heading back to Lost Creek after hearing the news that Madison’s ex-girlfriend has been killed.
Having already agreed to help Madison find her son, Owen, Nate understands the new urgency and is 100% willing to get justice for Madison’s wrongful conviction and to find the corrupt cops who framed her. His hatred for the police has only intensified since meeting Madison, and since he has no new information on Father O’Connor who set him up for his fiancée’s murder, he is more than happy to expose police corruption while he waits.
As the two of them, along with former K9 dog, Brody, make their way there, local police are dealing with the death of a teenage girl at the amusement park – first indications suggest suicide but a link between this case and the murder of Madison ex-girlfriend can’t be ignored. After all, two suspicious deaths in a small town like Lost Creek is more than a coincidence.
Once again, the author has created a story with characters you can’t help but care about. Putting aside Nate and Madison (whose history and relationship develop beautifully throughout), the story of the teenage girl – Nikki Jackson – is heartbreakingly sad and written with great compassion and empathy.
That said, the villains are appallingly vile too. As the truth about her ex’s murder becomes known, Madison is forced to face the cruel reality of her relationship with her own sister as well as with some of her former colleagues in the police force.
Clearing her name, finding her girlfriend’s killer and tracking down Owen all combine into one monumental challenge, and the author doesn’t give in to Madison’s demands easily. She really makes her and Nate work for the truth. All of which makes it compelling reading.
A certain scene with flies buzzing around a dead animal had me worried. Surely no one would hurt Brody? Was I more concerned about the dog than catching the killers? Probably 😉 Nonetheless, this made it even more of a page turner.
Another excellent story that ticks so many genre boxes – drama, crime, thriller and suspense – yet holds together as a cohesive whole. And, I’m even more delighted to hear that book three is not far off and Nate’s own story will be further explored and hopefully concluded.
Thanks to the author, Netgalley and Bookouture for my e-copy which I am delighted to review. Congrats!
Porter Norton, his friends and his sarcastic spirit guide, The Gliss, are on the trail of a young actress who went missing in Soho, London, in the Swinging Sixties. Still recovering from their last adventure in the battlefields of WW1, the gang are confronted by a transatlantic conspiracy.
Author Bio – Des, 52, is a former Times journalist/BBC TV producer. Miniskirts are Murder is the second in the Porter and The Gliss Investigations series, following Dead & Talking in 2019. Des likes to live out as much of the stories as possible and spent 3 months in the US researching this novel. He runs a film school in London and has just been commissioned to write a limited season TV series intended for Netflix. He is also a keen musician and through work has jammed with people like Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Jeff Lynne. He is married with 1 daughter.
When you’re working undercover the smallest mistake can cost you your life. ‘A riveting read full of tension and suspense with a vivid cast of characters and an enticing plot.’ Heather Burnside
Detective Constable Bailey Morgan has been out of the undercover game since her last job went horribly wrong, leaving her with scars inside and out. When her colleague Alice is found dead whilst working deep cover in a women’s prison, Bailey steps in to replace her. Working alone, Bailey embarks on a dangerous journey through the murky underbelly of the prison and soon discovers that Alice’s death was part of a spate of brutal murders.
Surrounded by prison officers, criminals and lowlifes, the slightest mistake could cost Bailey her life. Illicit drug trafficking, prison gangs and corruption are just some of the things she’s up against… and behind it all lurks a sinister and terrifying secret that will truly test her survival instincts. Heart-stopping and gripping. Perfect for the fans of hit TV shows such as Line of Duty, Orange is the New Black and Bad Girls.
Caro Savage knows all about bestselling thrillers having worked as a Waterstones bookseller for 12 years in a previous life. Now taking up the challenge personally and turning to hard-hitting crime thriller writing.
Having already read book 2 – Villain – I jumped at the chance to hear Bailey’s backstory. With hindsight I think I would have slightly preferred to have read this book for myself as although the narrator had a lovely and well modulated voice once she adopted a character’s voice I found it quite dramatic for bedtime listening – the scalpings in particular kept me awake.
That said, as a thriller, this is both original and intense. The women’s prison makes for a perfect setting; you just know it’s not going to be an easy ride for Bailey. There were many times that I just wished Bailey hadn’t been so strong-minded and stubborn, and that she had just got out of there when she had the chance. But Bailey is made of grittier stuff, and when she’s on a job she doesn’t back down for anyone.
And when things go wrong, they go wrong big style. I felt very on edge at times and concerned for her well-being. The author has created a cast of characters that are very believable and their environment is what you would – unfortunately – expect, with a way of life that inevitably includes drugs and violence. Accordingly, the inmates have a very different value system to the outside world. It’s rough, tough and scary but not without kindness and compassion: you just have to be very wary of “Greeks (not literally) bearing gifts.”
The ending is powerful, though I did work out who was involved early on, but the matter of how and why the killer chose the victims and then killed them made for compelling listening.
The narrator – Genevieve Swallow – did a fantastic job and made it easy to follow the story even when the subject matter grew brutally intense. I’m glad to have had the chance to learn more about Bailey, and now that I do, I can’t wait for more.
She’s stuck in the past, the killer wants to immortalise his future. When a local farmer announces on social media that he has discovered a bog body in Ardee, the world’s historians are keen to explore the secrets of the life and grisly death of the victim. Antique journalist January Quail is fighting to keep her newspaper job and uncovers far more than she bargained for.
The victim is actually a recent murder, and January uses her nose for the truth to investigate the County Louth town. From shopkeeper to the publican, everyone is a suspect, but when the Gardai can’t find the killer, can January?
Once she sets down the liqueur glass, January gains the confidence of the lead garda investigator. Within days, the case unravels into a much more dangerous situation with a killer on the loose.
Despite the risk, January is electrified that this newest discovery has come at the perfect time to inject some colour into her flailing career. January relinquishes her old ways to fight for survival, abandoning her antiques column and vintage corsets to solve a cryptic crime that has the experts puzzled. This woman who longs to lives in the past must now fight for her life in the present.
1995, Japan struggles with a severe economic crisis. Xavier Douterloigne, the son of a Belgian diplomat, returns to Hiroshima, where he spent his youth, to come to terms with the death of his sister. Inspector Takeda finds a deformed baby lying dead at the foot of the Peace Monument, a reminder of Hiroshima’s war history. A Yakuza-lord, rumored to be the incarnation of the Japanese demon Rokurobei, mercilessly defends his criminal empire against his daughter Mitsuko, whom he considers insane. And the punk author Reizo, obsessed by the ultra-nationalistic ideals of his literary idol Mishima, recoils at nothing to write the novel that will “overturn Japan’s foundations”…. Hiroshima’s indelible war-past simmers in the background of this ultra-noir novel. Clandestine experiments conducted by Japanese Secret Service Unit 731 during WWII are unveiled and leave a sinister stain on the reputation of the imperial family and Japanese society.
Trigger warnings: Graphic violence; distressing historical scenes including torture
Amazon star rating: 5*
Praise for Return to Hiroshima:
MMM named Return to Hiroshima as ” one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018“
“Author Bob Van Laerhoven pulls together an outlandish ensemble cast of peculiar personalities; fierce, fragile individuals who claw their way under your skin. Their predicaments –and their potential to unleash chaos – drag you into the narrative’s darkening abyss.” — Murder Mayhem & MoreRating: 5 out of 5.
“Van Laerhoven’s mastery of his subject and his flawless maneuvering through Japan’s unique past make one forget the depth of his narrative. There are many layers to Return to Hiroshima, and Van Laerhoven’s gift is crafting many intriguing subplots to create an energetic whole. But ‘layered’ is not quite right. Like an iceberg, a predictable part of Japan is visible for anyone to see. But beneath the surface lies mortal danger. And Van Laerhoven bravely plumbs those depths, for what’s underneath is a separate universe. What’s unsaid. What’s unaccounted for. Secrets no one admits to. Furious, revengeful rages hide beneath cool facades. Unspoken but understood conspiracies feed quests to right ultimate wrongs”. Joseph Brewer, Amazon
“The farther and deeper you progress into this often disturbing and yet captivating tale, the more you will be rewarded as the different and complex strands eventually draw together. Be warned though, this is no easy story to read and one that demands the reader’s full attention and concentration. Nor as I’ve intimated is this a book for the faint-hearted or those who prefer neatly packaged happy endings or a book filled with easily identified characters you’re supposed to either like or hate. Nonetheless, a powerful and multilayered story for those willing to stray from the more conventional thriller style and setting.” Rudders Reviews
“What a fine book. .. I was fascinated, intrigued and puzzled all the way through what is a fairly hefty read. Nothing is predictable. The puzzles are clear, their answers apparently transparent but in fact often opaque. No character is exactly what they seem, and the ways the characters present themselves are written with a seriously sure hand. The historical events behind the story are generously under-dramatized, and the level of detail is very high indeed. A great book.” Frank Westworth, Amazon
About the Author:
Van Laerhoven is a 67-year-old Belgian/Flemish author who has published (traditionally) more than 45 books in Holland and Belgium. His cross-over oeuvre between literary and noir/suspense is published in French, English, German, Spanish, Swedish, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese.
In Belgium, Laerhoven was a four-time finalist of the ‘Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year’ with the novels ‘Djinn’, ‘The Finger of God’, ‘Return to Hiroshima’, and ‘The Firehand Files’.
In 2007, he became the winner of the coveted Hercule Poirot Prize with ‘Baudelaire’s Revenge’, which, in English translation, also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category ‘mystery/suspense’.
His first collection of short stories ‘Dangerous Obsessions’, published in the USA in 2015, was chosen as the ‘best short story collection of 2015’ by the San Diego Book Review. The collection has been translated into Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.
‘Return to Hiroshima’, his second crime novel in English, was published in May 2018 by Crime Wave Press(Hong Kong). The British quality review blog Murder, Mayhem & More has chosen ‘Return to Hiroshima’ as one of the ten best international crime novels of 2018. MMM reviews around 200 novels annually by international authors.
Also in 2018, the Anaphora Literary Press published ‘Heart Fever’, his second collection of short stories. ‘Heart Fever’ was one of the five finalists of the American Silver Falchion Award. Laerhoven was the only non-American finalist. The collection has been translated into Italian and Spanish. A German translation is currently in production.
Having recently read the memoir of a survivor of Hiroshima, I was “in the zone” and keen to read this book.
The story began slowly as the author introduced us to lots of characters, each with their own chapter and story. The transitions from one chapter to another were abrupt and choppy; this was a book that demanded concentration to keep up with the many characters and how they would eventually fit together. I did find it quite difficult to follow, but as the story developed and more was revealed about the characters it became almost compulsive reading to see what happened next. By the midpoint I was totally invested and intrigued. The author’s quirky style had won me over.
Without a shadow of a doubt I can say this story had a varied cast unlike any other book I’ve ever read ( to name but a few there was a Japanese “demon” figure (both masked and unmasked quite a terrifying character), a detective who is singled out for not being 100% Japanese, a fearsome German photographer with an eye for dark subject matter and ready to take risks for the right shot, a giant daughter figure with a dubious version of the truth, and her manga-influenced friend). Their back stories were detailed and complex, and – for me – a little too in-depth at times. Although I admired how the author tied together the past and the present, bringing the traumatic events of 1945 to life as he mingled the aftermath into the lives of his characters. I’ll be honest, though – with some characters I’m still not overly sure who to believe as many their stories contradicted each other and I couldn’t see the truth for the blurring of the lines. Definitely a story to keep you thinking!
There are some gory and violent scenes, and while these make for some uncomfortable reading, I’d consider these scenes pertinent to the overall tone of the story. I will admit that at times I didn’t understand all aspects of the plot, but the author’s intricate details kept me interested, and I rooted for Detective Takeda all the way. The twist at the end was dramatic and unexpected, yet also sublimely appropriate. This was certainly not a story where anything was predictable.
BLOOD MONEY is the true legal thriller of a terrifying David vs. Goliath fight against massive healthcare fraud by a brave Whistleblower. It includes attempted murder, extortion, money-laundering, fraudsters hiding money in the Cayman Islands, gold buried in a storage container in a CEO’s backyard, an Assistant Attorney General sabotaging her state’s case, and a corrupt Governor torpedoing litigation by his own Attorney General. From Silicon Valley to the Sunshine State, in a showdown that reads like a Hollywood movie, Chris Riedel survives to share it all. His actions have resulted in more than $550 million in settlements and a court verdict… and counting.
About the Author
CHRIS RIEDEL is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has founded five
healthcare companies and served as the Chairman and CEO of all. Chris
achieved the Silicon Valley dream when he took his third company public in
1991. A few months later, it was ranked by Business Week as the 40th
best small company in America. Soon after founding a fourth company,
his battle against healthcare fraud began. In 2011, he received the
Taxpayers Against Fraud Whistleblower of the Year award.
Life is dangerous. No one survives it. Enora Andressen makes a series of mind-blowing discoveries when her friend disappears.
Actress Enora Andressen is catching up with her ex-neighbour, Evelyn Warlock, who’s recently retired to the comely East Devon seaside town of Budleigh Salterton. The peace, the friendship of strangers and the town’s prestigious literary festival . . . Evelyn loves them all.
Until the September evening when her French neighbour, Christianne Beaucarne, disappears. Enora has met this woman. The two of them have bonded. But what Enora discovers over the anguished months to come will put sleepy Budleigh Salterton on the front page of every newspaper in the land
Graham Hurley is an award-winning TV documentary maker who now writes full time. His Faraday and Winter series won two Theakstons shortlist nominations and was successfully adapted for French TV. He has since written a quartet of novels featuring D/S Jimmy Suttle, and three WW2 novels, the first of which – Finisterre – was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. The first three titles in the Enora Andressen series, Curtain Call, Sight Unseen and Off Script, are also available from Severn House. After thirty years in Portsmouth, Graham now lives in East Devon with his wife, Lin.
The story begins with Enora heading to Prague with her partner’s ashes, only to be stopped at customs and told she can’t take the ashes on board. Rather than leave them behind, she instead leaves the airport and sets off to visit her friend, Evelyn, in Budleigh Salterton.
The opening scenes are beautifully written, drawing me effortlessly into Evelyn’s relaxed lifestyle away from her previous life in London. Enora is welcomed by Evelyn’s friends , especially her French neighbour, Christianne, with whom she can chat in French and enjoy their shared cultural heritage.
Then Christianne disappears. Has she taken her own life? Enora learns that Christianne has Motor Neurone disease, for which there is no cure. But was she so desperate to end her life? Did Christianne’s partner, Andy, know of her plans? Did he help her? Was he alone?
Limelight raise many issues as the police investigate first Christianne’s disappearance, and then later her death. Suspicions abound among the close-knit community and the police seemed determined to find someone to charge with the “crime”. Are Evelyn’s other friends complicit in Christianne’s death? (Evelyn herself is never implicated, yet Enora who has only recently met Christianne is … because of the very close (and French) friendship they had formed. To me, that felt a little forced to propel the plot forward, but as I’ve not read any of this author’s previous books, I don’t whether that is his style of storytelling.
The police investigation is also a little contrived and, for me, seems an unlikely portrayal of how a police force would investigate such a case. That said, with fiction, anything is possible.
This is a slow-burner of a mystery, with a very understated crime at its core. The debate as to whether there has been a crime at all does form a central feature of the story. Of course, it’s a valid discussion point, and I congratulate the author in weaving the theme of euthanasia into his mystery so beautifully.
Limelight is a gentle mystery with a solid message about euthanasia. It encourages discussion well beyond the last page which can only be a good thing. There’s a heart-warming element to the story when looking at how the friendship of Evelyn and Enora has lasted, and how strong the community spirit and commitment to each other is in Budleigh Salterton.
The characters meander through the story, ably assisted by beautiful prose, stunning scenery, and a vibe that is captivating and engaging. Not your average crime mystery at all, but one that will keep you thinking about the story even when you’ve finished reading.