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Wednesday 23 June 2021

‘The Distant Dead’ by Lesley Thomson

Published by Head of Zeus,
13 May 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-78854975-2 (HB)

Stella Darnell, the Detective’s Daughter, organized, level-headed, successful both as a businesswoman and a skilled amateur detective, has gone into meltdown. The death of her policeman father, albeit several years ago, has suddenly hit her like a ton of bricks, and Stella has walked away from her acclaimed cleaning company, her lover and her comfortable world in London and moved to a flat-share in Tewkesbury. Mostly she has walked away from suspicious death, which seems to turn up in her life whether she likes it or not.

Needless to say, suspicious death has other ideas. During a cleaning shift at the Abbey she encounters Roddy March, who is making a podcast about a historical murder for which he believes the wrong person was convicted. Then there’s the Death Cafe, a kind of forum for discussing different aspects of the last great taboo. Stella attends a meeting, mainly out of curiosity but also as part of her attempt to come to terms with her delayed reaction to her father’s death. Roddy is there too; he behaves badly and is asked to leave.

And as if that wasn’t enough, a short while later Stella finds him in the Abbey, stabbed and bleeding to death.

So, it’s business as usual for Stella. She finds herself hunting not only for Roddy’s killer, but also for the solution to the eighty-year-old cold case he was investigating for his podcast.

Lesley Thomson’s many fans need no reminding of her sure hand with characters, and there’s a motley crew of them here. Jack, Stella’s train driver lover, and Jackie and Bev, her trusted employees seek her out and get stuck into the investigation. Lucie May, flatmate and bloodhound journalist, is involved from the start. And Tewkesbury is positively littered with interesting eccentrics, who may or may not be involved in the murder, but all have a part to play.

The town itself also comes to life, with plenty of gloomy alleyways and dark paths. The Abbey is distinctly creepy; the cadaver tomb especially, with its hair-raising carvings, made my flesh crawl. And the various dwellings Stella visits, from fussy guest-house to mansion preserved like a museum, all have personalities that suit their occupants.

The Distant Dead is a little different from others in this absorbing series, but in many respects it’s just the same – as well, as those characters, and plenty of sinister atmosphere, it’s a cracking good read, with plenty of twists and turns. The Detective’s Daughter gets better and better – and I’m sure she’ll be back!

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Lesley Thomson was born in 1958 and brought up in Hammersmith, West London. She went to Holland Park Comprehensive and graduated from Brighton University in 1981 and moved to Sydney, Australia. Returning to London she did several jobs to support writing. Her novel A Kind of Vanishing won The People's Book Prize in 2010. In 2013 her first book in The Detective’s Daughter series was published, featuring Stella Darnell (MD of Clean Slate Cleaning Services) and Jack Harmon, driver on London Underground’s District Line. There are now eight books in the series. Lesley combines writing with teaching creative writing at West Dean College. She lives in Lewes with her partner.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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