The White Shepherd by Annie Dalton

The White ShepherdAnna Hopley suffered a life-changing – well, closer to a life-ruining – trauma when she lost her entire family. Those past horrors have made her an isolated individual, with only her rescue dog, Bonnie, a White Shepherd, to keep her company. But one day, she finds her life colliding with two other dog owners, the older Isadora and the younger Tansy – neither of them have much in common except for one thing. They were together when they found a dead body in the park – the body of a young woman, Naomi, who Anna had been working with.

The crime is ascribed to the so-called “Oxford Ripper” but Anna is not convinced. Naomi was researching a number of issues – the life of a recently republished poet, the original owner of Bonnie and more besides. Could one of this have caused her death? With the police seemingly satisfied the case is closed, Anna and “the dog-walking Charlie’s Angels” find themselves on the trail of a clever – and ruthless – murderer.

Actually, it’s by Annie Dalton and her daughter Maria, but only Annie makes it to the front cover. Possibly as Annie Dalton has already written several books by herself but this is her first foray into crime.

It can be hard to balance character and plot. I rarely have difficulty with books that lean towards the plot in lieu of character, but when it’s the other way round, then it depends.

I think it’s fair to say that this one leans towards characterisation. There is a reasonably complex plot, but part of it (not all of it, let’s be clear) was very obvious to me. But I really didn’t care, because I was completely absorbed by the tale. It’s rare to find a character like Annie who has major personal issues but still comes across as a likeable and interesting person. Of course in crime fiction, more often than not, the hero’s issues are self-inflicted, and that’s certainly not the case here. It’s the tale of a woman coming to terms with what has happened to her in the past and moving forward with her life. And if that sounds like it’s not your thing – guess what? I didn’t think it would be my thing either, but I couldn’t put the book down.

And this extends to Isadora and Tansy as well – both very different characters, but the three leads fit together perfectly. It may be loneliness that draws them together initially but the blossoming friendship is really well done.

And while, as I said, part of the plot was not desperately surprising, there is more going on than first appears, and I was caught out by part of it, possibly because I was basking in my own cleverness at thinking that I’d got it all sussed. Silly me.

So, all in all, a very complete mystery novel. Possibly not a fair-play well-clued mystery, but a noticeable step above the average cosy. Very well written and it gripped me from beginning to end. Highly Recommended, and I look forward to the next in the series.

This copy was provided by the publishers Severn House to review. UPDATE: It’s out in the UK now, but not in the US until October. So put it in your diaries!

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13 comments

  1. The book sounds great, although I have to say that

    only Annie makes it to the front cover

    makes it far less likely that I’ll stir myself to get hold of a copy. Credit should be rendered where it’s due.

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      • Ah! It may well be, then, that Annie is indeed the sole author but is sharing the copyright with her daughter. There can be reasons why this is beneficial, though I’ve never investigated them. Terry Pratchett’s books always showed a joint copyright with his wife.

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      • Good point – forgot about that example. Might go back and edit that bit of the review – I thought there was a second place she was credited but can’t seem to find it. Probably not really worth mentioning it now.

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      • As you say, who knows? It could indeed be a co-authorship (although what mother would allow her sprog to be cut out of the credits? Not Mary Higgins Clarke, for example), or it could just be that the agency’s recording that they represent both copyright holders.

        Hey, you’re the internationally renowned puzzler! I expect a definitive solution on my desk by 9am tomorrow, ET. 🙂

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  2. Trusting in your reviews, I have shared this one with Facebook friends who I know are dog people. Wrapped in a mystery this sounds promising. The price of hardbacks is ridiculous, and keeps me from rushing out to buy. Instead, have added it to my Amazon wish list so I don’t loose track of it. As usual, thank you for the work you put into this blog. It always shows.

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  3. Sounds interesting. I read Louise Penny & her books rely heavily on characterization. I couldn’t find this on the Goodreads website (where I keep my “to read” list). Then I checked Amazon & it’s not due out till October ’15. Just mentioning in case anyone else is looking for it now. Thanks PD, I do appreciate your reviews.

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  4. Just saw your very positive review of our book, thank you! I Just to explain that I very much wanted Maria’s name on the cover but the publisher was adamant that it should be mine, until I guess they saw how they sell. Since we both wanted to take the opportunity to get our first murder mystery out there, with the possibility of an eventual series, we accepted (although not very happily) those terms. If they do indeed sign us up for a series, this will most likely change. Since Maria and I have worked closely together for the past 12 months I obviously don’t want people thinking I was trying to elbow her out of the limelight.

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