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The Distant Dead

I discovered bestselling author Lesley Thomson’s remarkable Detective’s Daughter series a few years ago by chance. I should have also bought a lottery ticket that day.

The series is, of course, about a detective’s daughter—Stella Darnell. Detection runs in her blood, but rather than ply her inherited skills in the Metropolitan police like her late father Terry Darnell, she took a different and unplanned approach to crime-solving. Stella runs Clean Slate, a successful cleaning company in London, where she crosses paths with homicide investigators, troubled souls, and clues that wipe away deception and expose killers. After she solved the case Terry was working on at his death, Stella’s cleaning company added a new branch to its mop-up business: private detective services.

Her team and support system has grown to include a wonderful collection of characters throughout the series, including Stella’s love Jack Harmon.

Now, in the eighth book in the series, The Distant Dead, Stella’s life is at crossroads. She needs time on her own away from everyone, including Jack, and especially murder. Finally grieving for her father, she hands her cleaning business over to her staff and leaves.

She relocates to the village of Tewkesbury, commits to a couple of local cleaning contracts, and settles in with her dog Stanley to heal. However, rather than escaping death, it comes calling in the form of a true-crime podcaster dying in her arms under the arches of Tewkesbury Abbey. Had the man, who’d been investigating the murder of a 1940s police pathologist, gotten closer to the truth than he’d realized?

Although they want to respect Stella’s need to be on her own, as the case casts long shadows into wartime’s painful past, her Clean Slate family knows it’s time for all hands on deck.

The Distant Dead is a fine example of Thomson’s skill in giving her characters the ability and room to grow individually and as part of a team. Jack Harmon has become one of my favorite fictional characters in any series. He’s grown from a troubled loner, aching from the childhood loss of his mother and haunted by the mystery surrounding her death, to a protective, loving dad, and devoted to Stella. When not working his shift as a late-night train operator in London’s Underground, he fearlessly enters the minds—and homes—of murderers, and trolls the darkness to comprehend a killer’s thoughts.

Stella is without question a detective’s daughter. She deals in facts, whether it’s in determining what solution will remove a stain from upholstery or if an alibi has cracks. Where Jack sees patterns in everything, can sense evil, and is governed by intuition, Stella is led by order and reason. Together they balance their world and upend that of killers.

Thomson is at her strongest when telling stories firmly planted in two eras or generations. The series’ first novel finds Stella wading through false childhood memories of her relationship with her father, tainted by her mother’s bitterness. The voice of reflection that Thomson gives Stella is remarkable. The Distant Dead takes readers through the investigation of a young woman killed during The Blitz and the detective driven to uncover the truth. It’s a murder and its shattering consequence that Stella and Jack must reveal before history claims more victims.

I recommend reading the series in order, beginning with The Detective’s Daughter. Although each book functions fine as a standalone, the characters’ growing relationships and histories add substantial depth to each book. In addition to the eight books in the series, there’s a short story, The Runaway. Thomson is also the author of three standalone novels, Seven Miles from Sydney, A Kind of Vanishing, and Death of a Mermaid.

To learn more about this fascinating series and the author, go to REVIEW PHOTO: Carolyn Tillery


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