A teacher is murdered in Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex. Her school has an historic connection with ghost story writer R M Holland. As pupils and colleagues try to come to terms with her death, the story surrounding it unfolds with Gothic overtones.
Investigating is Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur, an excellent character with an acid tongue and a sharp mind. On arriving at a witness’s home, she sees that the witness has been reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, and remembers that the murder victim had been “sitting in the dark with her herbal tea. Someone really should tell these women about Netflix” (p. 138). Her genial home life gives me the same cosy feeling I get reading this aspect of Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti crime stories. She is an old student of the comprehensive where the murder happened, and knows all the rumours and ghost stories which surround the school. The story is told from the perspectives of Harbinder, Clare (a colleague of the victim), and Clare’s daughter Georgia, who is a pupil at the school. Also woven in are sections of R M Holland’s ghost story.
It helped that the abandoned cement works and nearby strip of workers’ houses where some of the action takes place are familiar to me, as I used to go past them on the bus… and I had often thought that it was quite a creepy place. But I’m pretty sure this personal experience isn’t necessary for others to enjoy the book!
This was a perfect holiday read for me. I had never read any Elly Griffiths, but a friend bought me this standalone mystery novel for Christmas. I devoured it in two days when I should have been doing other things. I am now looking forward to reading her series set in Norfolk, which my friend says is just as good. There are two good dogs in this book.