Cameron Sexton and his wife Eleanor return home from an evening out to find their daughter tucked up asleep in bed, and the babysitter, Ollie, nowhere to be found. Envisioning a straightforward runaway, DS Jessica Daniel is perplexed to learn that someone posted Ollie's obituary in the local newspaper two days before his disappearance.
And then his dead body turns up in the property of someone who worked with Eleanor Sexton more than twenty years ago. Clearly reluctant to talk to the police about her younger days working as a nightclub hostess, something she has kept secret from her husband, Eleanor does nonetheless tell Jessica that Nicholas Long, the nightclub owner, is a man whose interests extend into criminal activities. When Eleanor's former colleague is also murdered, there is intense focus on Nicholas, the only link between the two cases, and his former rivalry with another local crime boss, Leviticus Bryan.
Despite niggling concerns that her partner is cheating on her, and an unexpected declaration of love from a colleague, Jessica has to push her romantic issues to one side and focus on the case.
This is a straight forward police procedural with no deep dark, psychological twists a la Scandinavian crime writers Jo Nesbo or Henning Mankell. It is as squarely, reassuringly British as fish and chips with its seedy misogyny, cocky teenagers and class division. Although it is one of a series of Jessica Daniel novels, at no time did I feel lacking by not having read the previous books; this definitely stands alone as a thumping good read.
Against this background, it is especially satisfying to see a female detective triumph. In addition, she is a ballsy, well rounded character that you end up rooting for as she puts herself in danger in order to close the case. The clever and unexpected plot twist at the end is one which, in true British Sherlock Holmes style, could have been deduced by the reader using the clues provided by the author.
This is the epitome of a great holiday read. You can relax in the skilful hands of a writer who brings you with him every step of the story. If you have room in your suitcase for one book, make it this one.
Reviewer: Joanna Leigh
About the author
Kerry Wilkinson was born 4 November 1980. His debut, Locked In, the first title in the Detective Jessica Daniel series, was written as a challenge to himself but became a UK Number One Kindle bestseller within three months of release. His three initial Jessica Daniel books made him Amazon UK’s top-selling author for the final quarter of 2011. When Think of the Children followed in 2013, he became the first formerly self-published British author to have an ebook Number One and reach the top 20 of the UK paperback chart. Following Playing with Fire, Thicker than Water is the sixth title in the Jessica Daniel series.
Joanna Leigh studied French and German at university. She works in the aerospace industry and is a chartered marketer in the UK. She describes herself as a voracious reader, enjoying genres as varied as crime thrillers, historical fiction and autobiographies. Joanna lives in London. She is the daughter of crime thriller writer Leigh Russell.
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