Was the wrong man hanged for a young woman’s murder, or is a copycat killer on the loose? DCI Henry Johnstone and DS Mickey Hitchens must crack a darkly complex case when the community close ranks.
1930, Leicestershire. Everyone in the quiet market town of East Harborough is convinced that local miscreant Brady Brewer is responsible for the brutal murder of Sarah Downham. Despite Brewer’s protestations of innocence, and his sister’s pleas for help from DCI Henry Johnstone and DS Mickey Hitchens, Brewer is convicted and hanged.
Two weeks after the hanging, a farmworker finds the body of another young woman less than a mile from where Sarah was found – and there are other disturbing similarities between the two murders. Is a copycat killer on the loose, or was Brewer innocent after all? Where is the missing yellow dress that Sarah wore the night she was murdered? As the locals close ranks, Henry and Mickey soon discover that reputations – and the truth – are all on the line . . .
The Girl in the Yellow Dress by Jane A. Adams impressed me with its reality. By this, I mean that the setting, people and their motivations, their actions and the way the police conducted the inquest had a very strong sense of reality.
In particular, I like the way the mystery unfolded. First, it looked one way, then, as facts emerged, things slowly changed until one discovery uncovered a new situation nobody had imagined.
It felt authentic to me and showed how things really might happen in the real world.
I also liked that some side secrets muddled the central mystery. It wasn’t cleanly cut, and this added to the feeling of authenticity. Also, the central mystery originated in an event that nobody had a clue about.
I really really liked all of this because it gave me a sense of the messiness of how life truly unfolds.
I also liked the setting very, very much.
In the forward, the author tells how she visited those places and fell in love with them. It comes through in the narration. Descriptions are very real and very grounded. Truly, I got the sense that the author had in mind a very clear image of a place.
But the best was the depiction of the small community where the crime happened. I loved all the characters, even the unlikable ones. All of them were so well-rounded, and they, too, felt grounded in the place where they lived.
I loved all of this.
And last but not least, I enjoyed Henry and Micky’s friendship a lot and the ominous feeling of the end in sight. Though that’s not the right word, I suppose.
Henry and Micky were in the Great War together. They have worked side by side for many years after the war – Henry, the detective, and Micky, his assistant – and have gone through a lot together. Yet, now Micky has an opportunity for promotion, and Henry knows it’s a good thing for him. He knows Micky deserves it, though he also feels a sense of loss and even contemplates leaving the police when Micky won’t be at his side anymore.
This also is handled with a very strong sense of reality rather than drama. Henry and Micky’s situations are very relatable, and still, as a reader, despite really wanting that they could go on together – like, to a certain point, they too wished – you also know that it is logical and understandable that one of them will want to move on.
These are the main elements that, in my opinion, created that stark sense of reality that I seldom find in fiction, and I appreciated so very much in this story.
I read also Adams’s previous book, that was just as good. You can read that book review here.The Girl in the Yellow Dress by @janeadamsauthor #BookReview #HistoricalFictionA very solid #HistoricalMystery with a great and atmospheric setting in the English countryside Click To Tweet
The Girl in the Yellow Dress
The Victorian police station was very like many Henry had visited over the years and the office of Inspector Walker likewise. It was small, crowded and tucked away in the back, reached by crossing the small brick-paved yard. James Walker himself was not a big man, not quite matching Micky for height, but he had an interesting physique – broad shoulders and a narrow waist – and a way of moving that made Henry wonder if he was a boxer.
He bid himself down and settled himself behind his desk, offering whisky which was refused, but pouring some into his own glass and chasing that down with a handful of pills that Henry assumed were painkillers. The man was clearly in pain and his jaw still showed the yellow and grey of old bruising. He had shaved, and Henry could imagine the discomfort that must’ve caused. His gaze, though, was challenging.
‘I do not need extra assistance,’ he said thickly. He was moving his face as little as possible, and Henry was reminded of a ventriloquist.
‘I understand you came off sick leave to handle this,’ Henry said.
‘I am fit enough.’
‘We’ve not come to challenge your authority,’ Henry told him, despite the fact that, on some level, that was exactly what they were doing. ‘We are, as you say, here to assist you, not to take over the case.’
Walker laughed at that, and a look of pain crossed his face as he clearly regretted the response.
‘You no doubt want to see my records regarding Penelope Soper’s murder,’ he said. ‘And Sarah Downham,’ Henry told him.
No laughter this time, but a grimace and not just one of pain. ‘What the devil for? That case is closed. The man who committed the murder is dead. He had hanged.’
The Thursday Quotables was originally a weekly post created by Lisa Wolf for her book blog Bookshelf Fantasy . It isn’t a weekly post anymore, not even for Lisa, but just like her, I still love to share my favourite reads on Thursdays and I still use the original template which included an excerpt.
NOTE: This blog contains affiliate links (including Amazon links) to the book I independently review. When you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission for advertising the product (at no extra cost to you).