Recent Events

Wednesday 18 October 2023

‘The Mystery of Yew Tree House’ by Lesley Thomson

Published by Head of Zeus,
14 September 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-804-54616-1 (HB)

After a two-book foray into someone else’s world, Lesley Thomson has returned to the one inhabited by Stella Darnell, the cleaner all busy women dream of finding. Stella and her Tube train driver partner Jack keep tripping over bodies. In earlier books it’s fair to say Jack went in search of them, or at least of of their killers, and Stella, the daughter of the late ace detective Terry Darnell, wasn’t averse to a bit of investigating on the side. These days she puts her considerable energy into running Clean Slate, her highly efficient and successful cleaning agency, but the bodies seem to keep turning up.

This time it’s a skeleton, discovered in a World War Two pillbox concealed by brambles in the garden of Yew Tree House, where Stella, Jack and Jack’s seven-year-old twins Milly and Justin, are on holiday. It’s the twins who make the discovery, and begin to investigate themselves. Enter Detective Inspector Toni Kemp, familiar to Thomson fans from the other world the author explored in the previous two books. Unlike many police officers, Toni isn’t averse to sharing the workload with amateur sleuths, especially when they have the reputation Stella and Jack have garnered. And so begins an enquiry into an eighty-year-old mystery, which rapidly gains pace when there’s another murder a few doors away from Yew Tree House.

Two time-frames, plenty of eccentric characters, quirky locations and a plot with plenty of knots to unravel: these are Thomson’s stock-in-trade, and as usual she juggles them with skill and deftness. Some old friends turn up, notably Lucie May, investigative journalist and Stella’s good friend, accompanied by Prunella, her trusty motorhome (don’t dare call it a camper van!), which has a personality all of its own. The village has its share of oddballs: Rosa and Stevie, the owners of Yew Tree House, both ninety-something but spry and active and of perfectly sound mind; creepy centenarian Reverend Snace and garrulous Jimmy Chrismas, who have quite different memories of their wartime activities. And back in the 1940s there’s Adelaide, Rosa and Stevie’s redoubtable mother, whose life is not quite as it appears to the outside world; and her protegé Henry the evacuee. Yew Tree House offers plenty of scope for Stella’s hyperactive cleaning gene, and both the Old Rectory and the lodge the sisters have moved to are redolent of a bygone era.

Plenty of questions emerge. In the present-day strand: what is the origin of the knives that keep turning up? Why have the sisters abandoned Yew Tree House? Why does Snace’s house have a locked room? And in the 1940s: what is Snace up to? Why do Henry and Jimmy keep disappearing? What is Adelaide keeping from her children? They’re all answered before the end, along with the biggest question of all: will Stella stop dithering and decide to move in with Jack and the twins at last? No spoilers here; read it and find out for yourself. You won’t regret it.
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 nine books in the series. The Most recent is The Mystery of Yew Tree House published 14 September 2023. 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment