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Saturday, 8 November 2014
‘Ghost Girl’ by Lesley Thomson
One of the secrets of being a successful amateur sleuth is to be in the kind of day job which allows easy access to other people’s homes and workplaces. Another is to be the kind of person no one notices, so that you can snoop and eavesdrop without arousing suspicion. A third is to be the kind of person people talk to without being too guarded. There’s one job which ticks all three boxes.
Stella Darnell and her partner in crime solving Jack, are exactly that – but they’re no ordinary cleaners. Stella is ruthlessly well-organized, and runs a highly successful company which provides a cleaning service to the police, among other clients. She takes on potentially interesting cleaning shifts herself, and Jack works for her part-time. He spends his spare time following hunches and omens and keeping watch over... well, over most of London.
When Stella finds a file of photos in the house of her recently dead father, a former senior detective, she senses that he has left her a mystery to solve. She and Jack use her spreadsheets and his intuition to follow a trail of apparent suicides, which leads to a much darker trail. It’s soon clear to the reader, though not immediately to the sleuths, that it’s connected to an emotionally damaged girl who witnessed something appalling nearly half a century earlier, and whose story is interleaved with theirs.
Lesley Thomson is adept at creating a shadowy, slightly menacing world, and making the reader feel anything could happen, and it will probably be bad. She clearly knows the back streets and byways of London as well as her protagonists. Most of her characters are nicely layered and complex, and even those that aren’t are still believable in the context in which she places them.
She also skilfully captures three separate voices: fey, eccentric Jack, down-to-earth Stella, and brittle, unloved Mary. Between them they weave a story out of the grim, slightly sinister threads which form the weft of the world they inhabit.
Ghost Girl is the second Stella Darnell mystery, with a third on the way. For fans of dark mysteries with plenty going on under the surface, they’re a treat.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick.Lesley Thomson was born in 1958 and brought up in Hammersmith, West London, grew up in London. She went to Holland Park Comprehensive and graduated from Brighton University in 1981 and moved to Sydney, Australia.. Her novel A Kind of Vanishing won The People's Book Prize in 2010. Her latest novel The Detective's Daughter is a number one bestseller. Ghost Girl the second in the The Detective's Daughter series is out in May 2014. Lesley combines writing with teaching creative writing at West Dean College. She lives in Lewes with her partner and is working on a new novel featuring Stella Darnell.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.