Legend Press | 2016 | 304p | Review copy | Buy the book
Nancy Faraday wakes up on the kitchen floor in her boyfriend’s farmhouse. Her face is bloody, she’s taken a blow to the head. She remembers nothing of what’s happened and her boyfriend is missing. She’s worried. Nancy hasn’t been with Evan very long, just three months, but she knows he wouldn’t have left her like this if he’d had any choice. And then a fire in the farm’s barn reveals a body, burnt almost beyond recognition. The evidence points in one direction but DI Will Jackman is immediately suspicious. Something isn’t quite right. What other secrets does the barn contain? Is the identification of the body really as straightforward as it seems? And will the memory of the only witness, Nancy, return?
Beneath the Ashes is the second novel by Jane Isaac to feature DI Will Jackman (the first was the excellent Before It’s Too Late) and it’s very good to meet him again. Jackman is a good guy, popular, handsome, brave, and a loving husband and father. In many ways he seems too good to be true but, as with most fictional detectives, there is a darkness in his life which has changed him. This doesn’t play as prominent a role in this novel as it did in the earlier one but Jane Isaac treats it with great sensitivity. Will Jackman is a man to care about.
In Beneath the Ashes our attention is divided between Jackman and Nancy Faraday with the narrative moving between the two, and Jackman’s pursuit of the facts is mirrored by Nancy’s painful and desperate stumbling after the truth.
I love the setting of this series in one of my favourite parts of England – the Warwickshire countryside around Stratford-upon-Avon. There’s something very comforting about the location and also about the way in which Jackman and his team approach the case. Their investigation is firmly rooted within procedure and Jane Isaac clearly knows her stuff as well as being an excellent writer. There is plenty of detail here to keep the crime buff happy and I liked the novel’s lack of sensationalism. This did mean, for me, that there was a lull in the middle as clues turn into red herrings and Jackman flounders a little, but the way in which the case develops is ultimately satisfying and realistic, while still retaining the drama and tension that you’d want from a crime novel. Beneath the Ashes confirms this series as one to follow.
Before It’s Too Late