Welcome to the Mystery Monday Meme. An Unfamiliar Murder is the first book by Jane Isaac that I’ve read and it is Book 1 in her DCI Helen Lavery series which takes place in the U.K. It was first published in 2012 and since then, Jane has published two more crime fiction books with a 3rd coming out in November. Her last two feature a different protagonist, DCI Will Jackman.
The story begins with claustrophobic Anna Cottrell going slightly crazy locked in a cell. By the time her solicitor calls, she is desperate. Then the pace picks up as Anna takes us back to how she ended up in this predicament and gives us a bit of backstory on who she is and what she does. Sometime between leaving work and landing in a police station, Anna has come home to discover her apartment door has been forced and there is a dead stranger sitting on her lounge floor full of stab wounds, staring straight at her. Why is he there? Who is he? Who killed him? Is Anna in danger? All of these are questions that must be answered before DCI Lavery can dismiss Anna as a suspect and before Anna will feel safe.
DCI Lavery is a widowed detective with two sons who all live with her widowed mother. Her father was a DCI and it is due to him that she has embarked on this career, working her way up through the ranks, finally arriving at her first murder investigation as head of the team. Her deputy assigned to the case is one DI Simon Townsend who has a reputation for harassing women and being a loner rather than a team player and a person who dodges work as much as possible. On top of this, her superior, Superintendent Jenkins, doesn’t seem to have the confidence in her she would like and keeps pushing to have another DCI take over and “mentor” her.
With a rebellious teenager at home, pressures at work, and leads drying up left, right, and centre, Lavery is desperate to find the connection between the victim and Anna Cottrell. Anna, on the other hand, is starting to realize there are all kinds of family secrets and lies beginning with the fact that the corpse is her biological father and nothing in her world is as she thought it was. When her boyfriend’s apartment is torched and he disappears, she suddenly realizes that she herself is in extreme danger and there are few places she can turn for support.
This is a well-plotted, tense story with surprises and cliff-hangers around every corner. There were places at the beginning where I felt the author was trying too hard to write well but those few incidents faded away as the characters and story twists took over and it quickly became one of those books I couldn’t put down. Fast-paced and compelling, this book is a winner and I will be picking up other books by this author for sure. * * * *
If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday mystery, mentioning my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review. You can also copy my MMM badge to your post.