Review: Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

under a silent moon by elizabeth haynesFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery, police-procedural
Series: DCI Louisa Smith #1
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date Released: April 15, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Two women share a grisly fate in the first entry of this exciting new British crime series—a blend of literary suspense and page-turning thriller that introduces the formidable Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith—from the New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Haynes, “the most exciting thing to happen to crime fiction in a long time” (Sophie Hannah, author of Kind of Cruel).

In the crisp, early hours of an autumn morning, the police are called to investigate two deaths. The first is a suspected murder at a farm on the outskirts of a small village. A beautiful young woman has been found dead, her cottage drenched with blood. The second is a reported suicide at a nearby quarry. A car with a woman’s body inside has been found at the bottom of the pit.

As DCI Louisa Smith and her team gather evidence over the course of the next six days, they discover a shocking link between the two cases and the two deaths—a bond that sealed these women’s terrible fates one cold night, under a silent moon.

In this compelling new detective series, Elizabeth Haynes interweaves fictional primary source materials—police reports, phone messages, interviews—and multiple character viewpoints to create a sexy, edgy, and compulsively readable tale of murder, mystery, and unsettling suspense.

My Review:

This is the first book I’ve read by Elizabeth Haynes, but based on this outing, I will definitely be looking for her in the future.

I always enjoy a good police procedural, especially British police procedurals–probably because I watch too many BBC mysteries on the “telly”. Under a Silent Moon reminded me particularly of some of those series, as there is a side-character in the book who seems like a younger and less foul-mouthed version of Andy Dalziel in Dalziel and Pascoe. He’s even named Andy, but he doesn’t have Dalziel’s nose for pulling a solution to the crime out of his hat (or his arse) in the nick of time.

The lead detective in this case is Louisa Smith, and it’s her first case as DCI (Detective Chief Inspector). She’s the supervising investigator into a particularly messy murder at a farm. The case is complicated enough by the victim’s life, it seems as if she was in or had broken up a relationship with every adult in the village, married or single. The number of ex-lovers and cheated-on spouses seems to be legion.

But Polly Leuchars isn’t the only dead body in the neighborhood. Barbara Fletcher-Norman committed suicide by driving off a ledge into a rock quarry on the same night that Polly Leuchars was murdered. Two unrelated deaths on the same night in the same small village is a bit much for the long arm of coincidence.

The story is in the evolution of the investigation and the unraveling of the myriad secrets and lies that link the close-knit inhabitants of this small community. The more that the investigation pulls itself together (sometimes because of, and sometimes in spite of the investigators) the faster that relationships fall apart in the village.

The way that the course of the investigation changes and morphs as the team pokes at all the holes in every witness’ story is fascinating. First it seems as if it’s all about sex. Then the tide turns, and it’s all about a cover-up. At the last moment, it turns into something else entirely. But the readers are just as caught up in following the trail of evidence as the police, and are just as surprised at the end.

Escape Rating A: Under a Silent Moon definitely puts the “procedural” in police procedural, but in a way that makes the reader feel as if they are a part of the investigation. The device of showing the reader the police reports as they are being written draws one compellingly into the action as it happens.

Louisa Smith is a sympathetic point-of-view character with a whole bunch of flaws that make it easy to identify with her. She’s smart and capable, but also has realistic self-doubts about leading a team for the first time, especially with the Deputy Chief Constable believing that he is her sponsor and mentor and has boosted her career.

Unfortunately, Louisa’s big flaw is not that she is a workaholic, although she is, but that she looks to her co-workers to serve as her dating pool. It was a problem when she was just a Detective Inspector, but now that she’s a boss, there’s big trouble up ahead. And behind, as one of her former lovers is on her team, and it makes a mess for both of them.

Still, I really liked her as a protagonist, and particularly the way she let her team members be the experts in their respective fields.

The way that the case continued to reveal more and more layers of the town’s secrets, and how that pushed the investigation into different directions kept me picking up the book every spare minute to see what happened next. I truly hope we’ll see more of DCI Louisa Smith and her team!

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