Whenever I have read a particularly harrowing or thought-provoking book I find myself looking for the literary equivalent of a palate cleanser. I still want quality storytelling but am happy to just go along for whatever ride the author has chosen to deliver without having to worry too much about just how doomed humanity might be. After reading Jane Jago’s THE WRONG HAND, which deals sensitively but comfortingly with the issue of children who commit crimes, I needed just such a breather.
Ellery Adams’ LETHAL LETTERS was a safe bet for me as I’ve enjoyed all the earlier books of this series set in a small North Carolina seaside town. It features a feisty business owner, her standard poodle Haviland and her writer’s group which doubles as the town’s amateur crime solving squad. The sixth installment of the series has two weddings, the discovery of a time capsule which turns out to be something of a Pandora’s box for one of the town’s old-money families and a lovely depiction of a strong friendship between two young women which, in a way, survives the death of one of them. I suspect it’s not much of a spoiler to say there is a happy ending here which series fans will particularly enjoy.
I then opted for procedural by new-to-me author Michael Woods. FOR REASONS UNKNOWN is a ripper of a yarn which sees a female DCI return to work after compassionate leave. Rather than leading Sheffield’s Murder Investigation team, as she had before her leave, she is asked to look into an unsolved cold case. Matilda Darke is not happy with this assignment but she knuckles under and is soon knee-deep in the details of the murder of Stefan and Miranda Harkness who were brutally killed at their home at Christmas time 20 years earlier. The only witness was their 11-year old son Jonathan but he never spoke to police at the time of the crime, he appeared to literally be struck dumb, and it transpires that there was never any follow up with him. The plot here starts quickly and never lets up; there’s a new twist or turn every few of pages. This makes the book highly unputdownable but did mean the author had to cram an awful lot of plot into what is actually quite a short book so as a total package it felt a smidge unbelievable by the end. The characters – particularly Matilda Darke and Jonathan Harkness – are well drawn, displaying the ways that life’s dramas and tragedies can affect people indefinitely. I assume this is the first book of what is to be a series and I would happily meet up with Matilda Darke again.