Standalone or series
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
I’ve never read any Lesley Pearse books before. I’ve seen the covers and assumed they’re cosy, historical family dramas, maybe a bit twee and probably not for me. But, when this came up on Pigeonhole as a murder mystery where everyone in the street could be a suspect, I thought I’d give it a try. What a bad idea.
Review copy or purchase
Thank you to the author, publishers Michael Joseph and online book club Pigeonhole for access to read this book for free. This is an honest and voluntary review.
What it’s about
The lives of the residents of Willow Close are disrupted and secrets uncovered as the police investigate the murder of a 13-year-old girl.
This book has a beginning, middle and an end. It starts with a murdered child being found, and by the end you find out who killed the child and why. That’s it, that’s all the positive things I can find to say about this book to be able to justify the minimum one star rating.
I am assured by other Pigeon readers who have read and enjoyed some of Pearse’s other books, that this one is not typical. But, after reading this there is no way I would consider picking up any of her other books.
The story is about the residents of Willow Close. Most of them have lived there a while, but it’s Nina and Conrad’s first day on the street when the body of 13-year-old aspiring singer/actress Chloe Church is found in bushes in an area of common land behind the street.
The rest of the book looks at each household and their reaction to Chloe’s death and the other secrets that the police investigations uncover. This should have been good. That whole idea of secrets below the presentable surface has a lot of potential. One tragedy uncovers a lot of previously hidden darkness in the neighbours, who knows what goes in behind close doors etc etc (see Tall Bones by Anna Bailey as a recent example of this done well).
However, the delivery of this is excruciatingly bad. The story is told largely in large sections of unbelievable exposition, such as Nina recalling when her husband told her about his mother’s and his imperious, neglectful stepfather, and his time at boarding school, over several paragraphs as she thinks about why he finds crimes against children distressing. The whole book is like, horribly clunky telling instead of showing, which leaves the characters very one dimensional. There’s no nuance or discovery. It leaves the situation that while the reader is told repeatedly that Conrad is wonderful and caring and insightful, his actual actions and comments come over as sinister and coercive. [Spoiler: that doesn’t turn out to be a plot twist.]
The author has a pathological obsession with describing the weight of her characters and what clothes they are wearing, as if that somehow replaces what they are feeling. The weight thing is the most distracting, particularly the repeated body-shaming descriptions of Amy, Chloe’s friend and the only other child who lives in Willow Close. The only excuse I can come up with for the clothes obsession is that maybe there’s a tie-in with a clothing company, and there’ll be a link somewhere to buy any of the outfits characters were wearing to Chloe’s funeral.
I could go on, and on, but honestly I’ve wasted too much time on this book already. I’m just glad it’s over and I never have to read another book by this author again.