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Monday 10 September 2018

‘The Death Chamber’ by Lesley Thomson

Published by Head of Zeus,
5 April 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78669720-2

The Death Chamber is set in three time periods, although the majority of the book is contemporary. In 1977, seventeen-year-old Cassie Baker leaves her home in the Cotswolds and disappears. Cassie has run away before and, although the police look for her, it’s assumed that she has run away, and this time has decided to stay away. In 1999 eighteen-year-old Bryony Motson goes missing. During the police investigation Detective Chief Inspector Paul Mercer selects a prime suspect, Charles Brice. Brice tells him that he has heard some information and leads Mercer to a Neolithic Long Barrow. This results not in the discovery of Bryony Motson but Mercer finds the skeleton of Cassie Baker.

In the years that follow, Bryony is not discovered alive or dead, which causes her father to campaign against Mercer’s handling of the case This, combined with Mercer’s flagrant disregard for his suspect’s rights, costs Mercer his career, but he is adamant that Brice is guilty and spends the next nineteen years trying to prove this.

Back in contemporary 2018, Stella Darnell runs her own very successful cleaning business, but Stella is the daughter of a detective and, since his death, she has solved several of his ‘cold cases.’ Another detective’s daughter, Lisa Mercer, approaches Stella on behalf of her father, now terminally ill, and asks her to take over the investigation of Brice’s guilt. It is time for Stella to decide whether she is serious about being a detective and if she is prepared to accept a case in her own right. Against the advice of her friends and colleagues, and despite her ‘city girl’s’ fear of staying in the country, Stella accepts the case and she and her friend, Jack Harmon, travel to the Cotswolds.

Stella and Jack have to tread carefully as they interview the family and friends of the two girls, not merely because of the fear of reopening old wounds but because of the varying attitudes to Paul Mercer. While Cassie’s mother is grateful to Mercer for discovering her daughter’s body, Bryony’s father, Brian Motson, blames him for never finding his daughter. Stella and Jack find that the house that Mercer has provided for them to stay in is remote and almost derelict and it soon becomes clear that somebody is watching them and playing tricks in order to scare them away. Another death occurs and the investigation of a case that had been safely in the past becomes immediate and very dangerous.

The Death Chamber is the sixth book featuring Stella Darnell and her colleagues. It is the first one I have read, and I wish that I had started earlier in the series in order to understand the complex web of relationships and the characters’ back-stories. The characters are interesting and well-drawn and form a close, supportive community, but at the same time, a major element of the book concerns the large number of secrets that the group of friends and colleagues are keeping from each other. The plot is skilfully laid and intricate, with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, The Death Chamber is an engaging book with a likeable cast of characters and some evocative descriptions of the wild Cotswold countryside. An enjoyable read.
Reviewer:  Carol Westron
 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.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

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