Anna 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!