Blog Tour/Book Review: The Playground Murders by Lesley Thomson



I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Playground Murders by Lesley Thomson. Described by Ian Rankin (no less) as ‘A class above’, The Playground Murders is the seventh in the author’s ‘The Detective’s Daughter’ crime series.

My thanks to Vicky at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my review copy.

The Playground MurdersAbout the Book

Forty years ago, in the dark of the playground, two children’s lives were changed forever.

Stella Darnell is a cleaner. But when she isn’t tackling dust and dirt and restoring order to chaos, Stella solves murders. Her latest case concerns a man convicted of killing his mistress. His daughter thinks he’s innocent, and needs Stella to prove it.

As Stella sifts through piles of evidence and interview suspects, she discovers a link between the recent murder and a famous case from forty years ago: the shocking death of six-year-old Sarah Ferris, killed in the shadows of an empty playground.

Stella knows that dredging up the past can be dangerous. But as she pieces together the tragedy of what happened to Sarah, she is drawn into a story of jealousy, betrayal and the end of innocence. A story that has not yet reached its end…

Format: Hardcover (384 pp.)    Publisher: Head of Zeus
Published: 4th April 2019   Genre: Crime, Mystery

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Find The Playground Murders on Goodreads

My Review

Switching back and forth in time from the present day to 1980 (always clearly signposted), the reader is soon immersed in the uncanny connections between people, places and events. The connections are especially personal for Stella because of her links to those involved in investigating the original murder at a pivotal moment in her childhood. To this day there is a fascination about child murders that makes them compelling (albeit possibly uncomfortably so) as subject matter for a crime novel.

Cleaner, Stella, and underground train driver, Jack, make an interesting partnership both as detectives engaged in solving cold cases and in their out of office hours activities. Stella has the eye for detail of a cleaner and the strong stomach needed at a crime scene. Jack is blessed with a photographic memory and a ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to spotting murderers and psychopaths (whom he refers to as ‘True Hosts’ and to whom he ascribes particular psychological traits and powers). As Stella admits, ‘Jack saw what others missed, what she missed.’ I’ll confess this ‘paranormal’ element took me slightly by surprise in what is otherwise a conventional crime mystery.

Coming new to the series, I did miss having witnessed the development of Jack’s and Stella’s relationship over previous books. In fact, The Playground Murders sees them at a particularly fractious point in their relationship with past liaisons resulting in mistrust, misunderstandings and big decisions about their future. I was soon rooting for them to work things out however. There are references to events in earlier books but not so much that it would deter me from reading previous books in the series. Equally, The Playground Murders works perfectly well as a standalone novel.

As Stella’s and Jack’s investigation progresses, things get very close to home for both of them. There are multiple suspects, possible scenarios and motives. Because of the number of characters, some of whom are known by different names at various points in the book, some concentration is required from the reader. Well, at least it was from this one. I did have suspicions about one particular character early on although I certainly didn’t predict how events would unfold as the tension builds to a dramatic climax.

Having read The Playground Murders, I can appreciate why ‘The Detective’s Daughter’ series has attracted so many fans amongst crime fiction lovers. They may be reassured by the fact that there still seem to be some unopened case files belonging to her father in Stella’s attic.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Head of Zeus. The Playground Murders is the second book on my 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge list.

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In three words: Compelling, intricate, atmospheric

Try something similar…The Temptation by Vera Morris (read my review here)

Lesley Thomson NewAbout the Author

Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a number 1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies.

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