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The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper

Head of Zeus | 2021 (13 May) | 464p | Review copy | Buy the book

Pompeii, AD 74: Amara wasn’t always a slave and ‘Amara’ wasn’t always her name. A Greek and a doctor’s daughter, family ruin led her on this path to slavery and prostitution in the Wolf Den, Pompeii’s most notorious Lupanar, or brothel. The women who work alongside her on these stone beds in confined cells come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some know no other life, saved from rubbish heaps where they had been dumped as babies, but others, like Amara and Dido, stolen from her home in Carthage, remember their past lives and are desperate for freedom. Amara is determined to get it, but at what cost?

The Wolf Den is set at a time when Pompeii’s inhabitants had no idea of what Vesuvius, the mountain looming over the city, had in store for them. This is a novel of what life was like in Pompeii just a few years before the eruption and the result is nothing short of a triumph. I adored this novel so much. It is my favourite novel of the year so far. I regularly visit Pompeii, I know it pretty well, and this novel has transformed my view of it.

Elodie Harper populates the streets and buildings of Pompeii with real people, moving the focus away from the ruins to the bustle and noise of a vibrant, busy city, so full of life. I loved these women, the she-wolves. We follow them as they go about their lives – ‘fishing’ for clients, visiting the local bar for lunch, going to parties to ‘perform’, looking out for one another, especially in regard to the brothel keeper, their owner, searching for a way out, the rich man who will save them. We’re presented with a network of Pompeii’s slaves, both male and female – prostitutes, bar workers, shop workers, doormen, musicians and entertainers. Then there are the people who own them or exploit them, even love them, or kill them. Some of these people are known to history and we see them in The Wolf Den in a new light.

Photo by Kate Atherton, 2019

When I visited the Lupanar (in the evening, when most visitors had left and I had the place to myself), I was shocked by it, with those little cells with their stone beds, the cramped little corridor with its toilet. The Wolf Den portrays the cruel and brutal life that these women (and boys) lived, with the darkness and abuse of the night contrasting with the business and chatter of the day. We’re given glimpses of fabulous villas, with their cool pools, fine wines and food, and libraries. Amara wants that.

The Wolf Den isn’t salacious, it isn’t erotic. Instead, it is a fascinating portrayal of these women’s lives, so full of misery and abuse but with such fight and resilience. It is a romance of sorts but this isn’t romance as we would know it. The women are all so different in the ways that they have responded to their situation, with the reader’s deepest emotional response perhaps going to those who are mothers. There is so much sadness and pain. Elodie Harper tells their stories with such emotional insight and warmth. But there is also a toughness and a sharpness as well as wit as some of the women, such as Amara, try to work the system and is a leader of sorts. She is an incredible character.

We know what looms over Pompeii and the fate in store for it. For much, if not all, of the novel, the reader can forget about that. Our attention is on AD 74 and not on AD 79, such is the power of the storytelling, but that fate is there and I really hope the author returns to Pompeii to continue its story and that of its she-wolves.

The Wolf Den is utterly engrossing and immersive. I will never see Pompeii with the same eyes again. I can’t wait to go back, more than ever now, and, when I do, I will take time to imagine the city’s slaves going about their masters’ business, walking those streets, inhabiting those buildings. This is a serious contender for my book of 2021. I don’t often return to novels but I’m looking forward to re-reading The Wolf Den when the beautiful hardback is published this week. Simply fabulous.

Nightshade by E.S. Thomson

Constable | 2021 (15 April) | 368p | Review copy | Buy the book

Nightshade by ES ThomsonIt is 1851 and apothecary Jem Flockhart, with the help of close friend Will Quartermaine, decides to restore her physic garden. The project is intended as a distraction, a relaxation, for Will who is recuperating after serious illness. The garden was originally designed by Jem’s late mother, Catherine Underhill, a woman who was every bit as fascinated by poisons and medicinal plants as Jem. But Jem and Will’s digging disturbs the past when they uncover the remains of a body buried years before, clearly murdered, under a bush of deadly nightshade. Jem feels compelled to investigate, little knowing that these actions will ignite a new series of murders with each victim found with deadly nightshade berries in their mouths and each connected to the garden. Jem finds herself on a painfully personal journey as she descends into a world of poisons, exotic plants, memories, murder and madness.

It’s hard to believe that Nightshade is the fifth Jem Flockhart novel. I’ve read and loved these books from the beginning and this one is, I think, my favourite. You can read it without having read the others but I think in many ways it represents the fulfilment of the past. Jem’s character – a girl brought up as a boy and now living and working as a man – is fully evolved, we’ve witnessed the events that have shadowed her recent years, the murders of friends and colleagues, the establishment of her role as apothecary, part of a medical community, and an investigator of murder – it’s now time to learn more about her mysterious mother who died when Jem was an infant. Jem doesn’t like people getting too close to her past and to herself. Her gender is her biggest secret. But, in this case, there is nowhere to hide.

The captivating story mixes with the past as we read extracts from the journal kept by Catherine Underhill as she undertook a botanical expedition to India alongside some extraordinary women, completely out of step with society’s expectations for their gender. Once they are away from England, they leave that corseted world behind and enter another place, which is exotic, intoxicating. This is brilliantly evoked by E.S. Thomson and it complements perfectly Jem’s London, which is also heady with poisons, poverty, dirt, depravity, a place in which people can drive themselves mad. There are some incredible scenes where Jem and Will encounter the insane, secrets locked away within. The cast of characters in this novel are fabulous – each is fascinating and most are disturbing, even frightening.

Victorian London is vividly portrayed. The novel (and series) is full of historical medical and botanical knowledge. The book is enriched by its detail. At the heart of all of this, though, is Jem, who seems lost, vulnerable and at risk. There is only so much protection Will can provide. I urge you to read this superb series, with its ingenious tales of murder and murderers, and get to know Jem, one of my very favourite figures in historical fiction.

Other reviews
Beloved Poison
Dark Asylum
The Blood

Surgeons’ Hall

The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

Penguin | 2021 (29 April) | 432p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Whole Truth by Cara HunterMarina Fisher is one of Oxford’s most celebrated professors, leading the way in AI research as well as being a popular teacher. DI Adam Fawley isn’t alone in being surprised when Caleb Morgan, a rugby-playing student, accuses the professor of sexual assault. Morgan’s mother is also a powerful and influential woman. This unusual case, which soon attracts the attention of the media, is not going to be an easy one for Fawley and his team. Fawley has other matters on his mind. The so-called Roadside Rapist, whom Fawley put away, is about to be released. It’s not easy to forget the threats made against Fawley at the time. His wife Alex is heavily pregnant and she, too, has good reason to be afraid.

This series, of which The Whole Truth is the fifth, has become one of the very best that I’ve ever read. If you haven’t read the others, it doesn’t really matter but you’ll want to after reading this. I still have the first two to read and I’m off out this afternoon to buy them!

There are lots of reasons why this is such a good series but one of them is its Oxford location. It’s my hometown and, while it’s often the location of thankfully fictional murder, this is the Oxford that I know and love. I recognise buildings, streets, the feel of the place. The University plays its part but so, too, does the rest of the city. One novel actually got very close to home! Cara Hunter knows Oxford inside out and she puts this fabulous city on the page.

I love the style of The Whole Truth. Like the other novels, it’s clever and engaging. A range of perspectives are used, including the first-person viewpoint of Adam Fawley who, at times, even seems to address us. But we also spend time with members of his team and his wife, Alex. All of them seem preoccupied with something and I like that, it’s how life is. Mixing with these are extracts from all kinds of things – tweets, newspaper reports, police interviews, texts. I love it! There are no chapters, everything pushes on with immediacy. It’s extremely difficult to put down, not just because it’s so good but also because there are no pauses.

The Whole Truth has an excellent and involved plot and much of it is character-driven. I found the character of Marina Fisher, and the insight into her world, fascinating. This could well be my favourite of the series. To put it simply, I think it’s utterly brilliant.

Other reviews
No Way Out
All the Rage

The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood

HQ | 2021 (7 January) | 352p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book | Listen to the book

The Marlow Murder Club by Robert ThorogoodJudith Potts is 77 years old, lives in an old big house in Marlow on the Thames and likes nothing more than to swim in the river, shockingly nude, loving the thrill of her independence. But on one swim she witnesses the murder of a neighbour. She flees to the police but they don’t believe her. Judith, a genius crossword puzzle solver, decides to solve the crime for herself but, in so doing, she gathers around her a small group of other women, each with something they need to do: Suzie, a no-nonsense dog-walker, and Becks, the local Vicar’s wife, undoubtedly prim and proper. When another body turns up, they are joined by DS Tanika Malik, a detective who feels out of her depth with a serial killer to catch. Together they form the Marlow Murder Club. And watching them is the Marlow murderer.

Robert Thorogood is most well known for his Death in Paradise stories but now he turns his attention closer to home, to the elegant and rather posh town of Marlow, and the result is an unashamedly cosy crime novel that is an absolutely joy to read. I was initially suspicious as there are undoubtedly similarities to a certain other recent novel that I adored but it turns out that there’s more than enough room for more murder mysteries featuring puzzle-solving older people, especially women. As Agatha Christie would attest, no doubt.

The Marlow Murder Club has much going for it, not least the heady atmosphere of a summery Marlow, with its art galleries, tea shops and boaters. It all feels over-rich, above the law, the perfect setting for a murder. The scene is set so well. The deliciously complex and involved plot fits into this world perfectly – not that I’m going to say anything about that.

But it’s Judith and her friends who steal the show. Judith is fabulous. I listened to the audiobook, which is brilliantly read by Nicolette McKenzie, and she does a fantastic job of bringing these women to life. Each of the women in the novel has another side to her but Judith’s story in particular is really intriguing and lovingly revealed by an author who clearly cares for her. There are stereotypes here and Robert Thorogood has fun playing with them while enjoying them for their own sake. There is so much in this one to revel in and I can’t wait to see Judith and her newly discovered friends return.

The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan

HQ | 2021 (15 April) | 320p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Wild Girls by Phoebe MorganIt’s been a long time since these four women – Grace, Felicity, Alice and Hannah – would have thought of themselves as best friends. They grew up together, running amok as a gang of wild girls, and that turned into close friendships as adults. Until it all went wrong and now each must deal with feelings of guilt, distrust and regret. It’s a surprise, then, when Grace, Alice and Hannah receive a message from Felicity inviting them to a party in a luxury lodge in Botswana, an all expenses paid dream holiday. Each of these women face different circumstances in their lives but perhaps getting away from home for a while is what they need? Against their better judgement, they each make the trip to join Felicity in Botswana. They would have been better off listening to those instincts.

I really enjoy Phoebe Morgan’s stand alone thrillers and I particularly couldn’t wait for The Wild Girls. I travelled around Botswana many years ago and my memories of it are vivid. Its the perfect setting for a mystery novel – a beautiful, remote location, dangers outside, little chance of help. Perfect. I must say, though, that it seems an awfully long way to go just for a long weekend!

I love the way in which the mystery builds. I found it engrossing and read half of the novel in just one sitting. The chapters move between the perspectives of Grace, Alice and Hannah and I was soon interested in their different lives. There are hints of things going on in the background and in the past, which are very intriguing and disturbing. These women feel multi-dimensional. Phoebe Morgan is very good at creating believable characters with a backstory you want to learn about.

The scenes set when the three women arrive at the lodge are thoroughly compelling as the reader tries to second guess the characters with what on earth is going on. I didn’t find the second half as engrossing, possibly and ironically because the first half is so sensational! The past and the present begin to merge together. I think the greatest fun to be had is in the sheer tantaslising mystery of the first half, which is very well done indeed.

The Wild Girls is such a fun, fast thriller, which also benefits from being set in such an unusual and very enticing location. It’s therefore escapist as well as thrilling and allows the mind to travel even if the rest of us can’t for now.

Other reviews
The Girl Next Door
The Babysitter

When I was Ten by Fiona Cummins

Macmillan | 2021 (15 April) | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book

When I Was Ten by Fiona CumminsThe Carter family seemed to everyone else to be living an idyllic life in their large beautiful house on the top of a hill. The two little Carter girls seemed happy as did their father, the village doctor, and mother. Then, in 1997, one of the sisters committed an unimaginable act. She murdered her parents with a pair of scissors and ten-year-old Sara is charged with their murder – the watching world is absolutely horrified – and is locked away until she was 18 while the other sister is given a new identity. Twenty years after the crime it is all now coming out as Catherine Allen watches the news and sees her sister on it talking about the murder of their parents. Their neighbour and friend all those years ago, Brinley, is now a journalist after the big story and it looks as though now she might have it. More lives than one will be altered forever as the revelations flow.

I am a huge fan of Fiona Cummins. She’s one of those writers whose books I will always read and as soon as possible. I especially loved The Neighbour and I’ve been looking forward to what would follow it. When I was Ten, another entirely stand alone thriller, was well worth the wait.

The novel tackles a subject that is not an easy one – the abuse of a child that is so severe, so calculatedly evil, that it leads to that child murdering her parents. The narrative moves backwards and forwards through time so that we witness what the sisters went through and how this pulled them together until the murder divided them forever as prison took one and a new identity claimed the other. We see what this has done to Catherine Allen, who has created a new life, knowing that now everything will change as the past is awoken and others, such as the media or a cabinet minister, begin to feed on it for their own gain. Society has judged the sisters who have kept their secrets. Can Brinley help or will she destroy them?

The thread featuring the cabinet minister is perhaps a distraction, although I did enjoy it, but the focus here is on lives destroyed and altered and, as the vultures circle, it builds into a thoroughly engrossing and compelling read as we learn more and more about the past and about the present. Fiona Cummins is a clever writer. Her stories don’t develop as you’d expect while still emotionally involving the reader in their characters. So we have the best of both worlds – an exciting psychological and crime thriller as well as an insightful and empathetic portrayal of a terrible situation that destroys lives while also inciting a judgemental society’s salacious interest.

The Neighbour was one of my top 20 books of 2019 and there is every chance that When I Was Ten will do as well in 2021. It is most certainly a powerful and haunting depiction of what happens when a child kills and what drove her to it.

Other reviews
Rattle
The Collector
The Neighbour

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear

Allison & Busby | 2021 (23 March) | 350p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline WinspearThe Consequences of Fear is the 16th novel in Jacqueline Winspear’s much loved and wonderful series featuring Maisie Dobbs, a well-to-do investigator and secret agent in London before and during World War Two. You don’t need to have read all or any of the series to enjoy this latest addition to it (it would even serve as a good introduction) but, if you have, you’ll be as emotionally invested in Maisie as I am and that will add a certain special something to your appreciation of it. I haven’t read them all yet. I’ve read the last few and a couple of the earlier ones and I can thoroughly recommend them and I’m looking forward to catching up with the others. Maisie is definitely a person worth knowing, as is her very dependable and invaluable assistant Billy.

It is October 1941 and bombs continue to fall on London. It is a scarred and pitted city, full of deserted or destroyed buildings. The war effort is everything with many trying to do their bit, while others try and hold things together, still remembering the horrors of the Great War. When young Freddie Hackett, a runner who carries government messages across London, witnesses a murder in a doorway, nobody believes him. But Maisie Dobbs does.

Maisie does everything she can to help Freddie and his family, in tandem with the overstretched police, while continuing in her other job working with a secret government department to train men and women to go undercover in occupied France to work with the Resistance. The burden of this role is almost overpowering for Maisie and is due to become even more so. Maisie is soon to learn that the secrets of the last war remain as dangerous as ever while the current war is reaching a critical stage.

This is a fantastic series and I read The Consequences of Fear as soon as I could. I’m so glad I did as I think this novel could well be my favourite. It feels like a significant book in the series. Maisie’s family life seems to be settling down, causing her to re-evaluate her life and the significance of her friendships. Maisie’s friends play an important role in the novel, as do women in general. She might work for and with men but Maisie is well aware of how special these women are – women who parachute into France to work for the Resistance as radio operators (a role with an average life span of only six weeks), women spies, army drivers, mothers, daughters, friends. I love this circle that surrounds Maisie.

But we can’t forget Billy, Maisie’s assistant, who is completely wonderful. Maisie is, not to put too fine a point on it, posh. She has money to spare and there’s a philanthropic side to her. There’s a formality to her dealings with those who work for her, even if she is very happy to get her hands dirty. Billy can’t really be called a friend but I think Maisie would certainly regard him as family. The two of them together follow their case across London and I love the detail of this – the pubs they visit to question landlords, the deserted houses, the trains, the dark streets, the river. There is a deeply poignant scene near the beginning with the river. This is a city under attack, people are suffering. While it brings out the best in some, it certainly doesn’t in others. Freddie, just a child, bears the weight of this.

I loved spending time with Maisie again. I hoped for the best for her throughout and I worried with her when she felt responsible for the women being sent into France. I enjoy how she mixes with hard-drinking government men and stressed detectives. She straddles male and female wartime experiences. Above all else, Maisie and Billy are immensely likeable, as are Maisie’s friends and family. I can’t wait to see them all again.

Other review
The American Agent

The Drowned City by K.J. Maitland

Headline | 2021 (1 April) | 448p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book

The Drowned City by KH MaitlandIt is 1606 and Bristol has been devastated by a catastrophic tidal wave. Many are dead, lost, orphaned or homeless. It’s a year after the Gunpowder Plot and James I and his adviser Robert Cecil are overcome with paranoia and fear. While Cecil worries about plotters, James is concerned about witches. Daniel Pursglove, who has special talents, is despatched to Bristol with two missions – to find the escaped Catholic conspirator Spero Pettingar, who is believed to be in Bristol, and to find out whether the terrible flood was an act of God or the work of witches.

Daniel finds a city wrecked by the flood, its citizens tested to their limit, susceptible to rumours of witchcraft, desperate to find somebody to blame. It’s not long before there are lynchings, Jesuit plots, and then Daniel discovers there is a murderer at work.

Karen Maitland writes beautifully about the people of the past and their lives and beliefs, especially in the medieval countryside. Now, writing under a slightly different name, she turns her attention to the early 17th century and a time that was more modern and knowable in some ways but was still alive with suspicion, fuelled to a large degree by the witch-hating James I. The starting point is compelling – the true story of the wave that destroyed much of Bristol – and here she puts it in a context of religious turmoil, persecution, conspiracy and suspicion.

The result is a richly evocative and atmospheric novel, gorgeously written, with attention given to the details of daily life as well as the devastation of the flood. This is a population that has been traumatised and we feel that keenly. We meet men, women and children in dire straits, including a young boy who must survive as best as he can, homeless and still hoping that he can find his family, that they won’t be lost to the sea. He is one of the survivors and they can be ruthless.

Daniel is an outsider who wanders through the city’s streets, suspected by many and a witness to some terrible things. There are some devastating scenes in The Drowned City as people find witches in ordinary places and treat them brutally. Daniel is there to uncover secrets, without knowing what those secrets are. He is caught in the middle of something that he can hardly understand but it constantly reminds him of a past he is trying to forget.

The Drowned City is beautifully written, with an emphasis on atmosphere, on Bristol and its people during this period of turmoil and persecution rather than on the plot, which meanders considerably. I did find this a little frustrating on occasion but it is certainly engrossing and involving. I loved the scenes featuring King James – especially the memorable scene when he visits the Tower of London to see his lion. This is fabulous! I’ve read a fair few novels featuring James over the years and this James is excellent (and fortunately long dead)!

Other reviews (writing as Karen Maitland)
The Vanishing Witch
The Raven’s Head

A Comedy of Terrors by Lindsey Davis

Hodder & Stoughton | 2021 (1 April) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book

A Comedy of Terrors by Lindsey DavisThe festival of Saturnalia is rapidly approaching and this year Flavia Albia and her aedile husband Tiberius know that it needs to be extra special due to the two young boys now in their care. But the best laid plans and all of that soon go awry when it becomes clear that a gang of hoodlums is messing around with Rome’s lucrative nut market. When matters turn nasty, Tiberius is forced to investigate while Albia has her own hands full with another matter. A woman has thrown her husband out and wants to know exactly what he’s been up to. It seems like such a simple case, just something to pass the time. Albia couldn’t be any more wrong. And that’s before their pet sheep (called Sheep) is stolen and its head dumped on their welcome mat. Meanwhile, Rome carries on regardless, carrying out practical jokes, decorating their houses, tolerating cheekiness from their slaves, and passing out drunk in doorways.

I have been reading Lindsey Davis’s Roman mysteries for more years than I care to mention – first the Falco books and now those that focus on Falco’s adopted daughter rescued from Britannia. In this now soundly established second series, Domitian’s Rome is brought to life due to the author’s masterful way in backing up her wonderful, engaging stories and characters with all of those fascinating historical details. Lindsey Davis knows her stuff and it enriches these novels every bit as much as her humour. A Comedy of Terrors is the ninth volume of the series (how can it be that many already?) and you can enjoy it with or without knowledge of its predecessors. If you love Marcus Didius Falco – as if anyone doesn’t – then you’ll be pleased to see that he pops in. Saturnalia is a family festival after all.

Flavia Albia, as normal, is our narrator and what a wonderfully witty and entertaining companion she is. It’s clear that sometimes what she says hides what she really feels – such as her relationship with her husband (now on the right track again after the lightning incident, I’m relieved to report), her worries for the two little boys in her care, her responsibility for her household, and her memories of her terrible former life. There is an undercurrent of darkness, should you look for it.

A Comedy of Terrors is, perhaps, a more playful read than others in the series. This might be because the author wants to cheer both herself and her readers up. It worked, at least for me. At its heart is Saturnalia, the festival that has links with Christmas. I know little bits and pieces about the festival but this fabulous novel explores it thoroughly, immersing us in its chaos and fun, while also highlighting its downsides – the streets were far from safe for women and perhaps there is a cruelty behind some of the japes. As usual in these novels, we are reminded of the place of women in this society and the complete and utter barbarity of slavery, as well as the brevity of life for many. No wonder everyone looked forward to Saturnalia and the reversal of roles, with the slave playing king.

The story is a good one, with several strands which are slowly developed. There is so much of interest happening outside the cases. Everything you wanted to know about the Roman nut business or pie making business can be found in this book. It is all pulled together satisfactorily, and rather amazingly, and I think that the last third is particularly fantastic. I felt like applauding at the end.

Lindsey Davis is so good at placing us in the streets (and high-rise tenements) of late 1st-century AD Rome. There is so much to look at. I love her characters and Flavia Albia has now established herself as a worthy successor to Falco – Falco would, no doubt, have it no other way. I look forward to this series every year and A Comedy of Terrors shows so well exactly why that is.

Other reviews
Enemies at Home
Deadly Election
The Graveyard of the Hesperides
The Third Nero
Pandora’s Boy

Vesuvius by Night
A Capitol Death
The Grove of the Caesars

What Will Burn by James Oswald

Wildfire | 2021 (18 February) | 457p | Bought copy | Buy the book

What Will Burn by James OswaldCecily Slater is a 90-year-old woman who lives a reclusive, quiet life in an old house that is hard to reach. But she knew that they would find her in the end and that she would die in flames. Nearby a man dies in his armchair, his torso incinerated, looking every bit as if he had died of spontaneous combustion. Tony McLean, now happily demoted to Detective Inspector, and Janie Harrison, just as happily promoted to Detective Sergeant, must investigate both cases. While one might not be murder at all, the other is inexplicable. Why would anyone do this to an old woman? There will be more deaths, all so difficult to explain. This won’t be an easy case and matters aren’t helped by the arrival of the new Chief Superintendent, the charismatic and demanding Gail Elmwood.

What Will Burn is the eleventh novel in James Oswald’s superb DI McLean series. While there is a benefit in having read the previous novels, What Will Burn does stand alone very well and I think it would even serve as a good way in to the books for those new to them. This is one of the best detective series you could read, and I love them all, but What Will Burn is my favourite and it exemplifies everything that I love about these books – their atmosphere, cleverness, intriguing crimes, fantastic characters and that little hint of the mysterious and other worldly. These books are firmly grounded in Edinburgh and Scotland but there is an element of horror and the supernatural that manages to not intrude while adding a flavour that is absolutely delicious!

The storyline of What Will Burn is terrific – it is really, really, really good. You can tell how good it is because I can’t think of the words to praise it enough! All sorts of themes and ideas are explored, but one of the big issues tackled in such a brilliant way is the age-old hatred that some men have for women, especially wise women. Then there are other biblical motivations – vengeance, envy, sin. I love how these novels tackle modern crimes but give them a context that is universal, ancient and timeless.

Familiar characters that we love are here, along with Tony, such as Janie, Madame Rose, Lofty (Emma is away in Africa), Grumpy Bob, various cars and cats. There is a link with the author’s Constance Fairchild books thanks to Isobel or Izzy, who is such a fine character. Overshadowing everyone is Gail Elmwood. The least said about her in a review the better but you really need to meet her.

Tony McLean is a wonderful and original creation, surrounded by a circle of friends and colleagues that are a pleasure to know. There are dangers within and without but they remain on guard, vigilant. Long may they continue to do so.

Other reviews
Natural Causes
The Damage Done
Written in Bones
The Gathering Dark

Cold as the Grave
Bury Them Deep
No Time To Cry (Constance Fairchild 1)