71. With Our Blessing (An Inspector Tom Reynolds Mystery) by Jo Spain

This was another ‘read the first of a series for 99p’ on Kindle. I was drawn in by the blurb and stayed for the story. It was one of those reads that lingers long after I’d finished it. I learnt so much while reading this and it was a good first novel in that it made me want to read the rest of the series.

Synopsis (as taken from the Amazon Kindle Store) is as follows:

It’s true what they say…revenge is sweet.

1975

A baby, minutes old, is forcibly taken from its devastated mother.

2010

The body of an elderly woman is found in a Dublin public part in the depths of winter.

Detective Inspector Tom Reynolds is on the case. He’d convinced the murder is linked to historical events that took place in the notorious Magdalene Laudries. Reynolds and his team follow the trail to an isolated convent in the Irish countryside. But once inside, it becomes disturbingly clear that the killer is amongst them…and is determined to exact further vengeance for the sins of the past.

Ability to read – Crime novels are my happy place and I’m constantly on the look out for my next crime series. I took a gamble on this book and I’m glad I did because it’s given me another incredible author whose work I want to devour. I was anxious at the start of the novel because I’ve never been to Ireland and wasn’t sure that I would understand the setting of the book. This was an easy book to get into but my reading of it was slower than usual because I had to stop every so often to google something. This isn’t a bad thing, I actually enjoyed that I learnt so much while reading this book. I thought the inclusion of real history was curious and it made me eager to find out what happened. I have since learnt a lot of the Magdalene Laundries and the history of Ireland in regards to that. I found this book easy to get into and easy to read. It was a book that kept me guessing and I didn’t work out who was the murderer until the very end.

Characterisation – I was ready to love Tom Reynolds. He was a character who seemed real to me, a detective who was fully shaped and not so stereotypical. I enjoyed his take on things and how he viewed the world. He was the peanut butter to all the other characters, drawing them into his web of stickiness. I found myself doing a happy dance with the characters, like with Elly Griffith’s books, I felt that each character had been given a moment to shine and had a developed back story. I felt like I was learning about the team together but also getting a glimpse of their individual personalities which made me feel more connected to the book. Sometimes I can feel a bit overwhelmed with the volume of characters in a Detective series, but I didn’t get any sense of that here. I thought the team worked cohesively and each of their strengths balanced their weaknesses. It will be interesting to see how the characters change and develop as the series continues. As for the murderer, I thought they were written superbly. I was guessing who it was at nearly every page but Jo Spain managed to keep the murder a secret until the last few chapters. I was shocked when I discovered who it was and came to the conclusion that in all my theories I’d never once accurately guessed who the murderer was. That for me, marked this book as a success.

Visualisation – As I stated above, I’ve never actually been to Ireland, so much of what I visualised was from the descriptions presented to me and the imagination in my mind. I don’t think my lack of knowledge of the setting hindered me in any way. I was still able to create a picture of what was happening in my mind. Perhaps the settings were a little vague or blurred in my mind but I had such a clear picture of the characters and their actions and personalities that it didn’t matter so much. Google images was a wonderful help when I needed to understand something and certainly helped me to create a clearer image in my mind.

Uniqueness – In all my years of reading Detective novels, I’ve never once read one that is set in Ireland. So for me, having to read something that was set in a place I didn’t recognise was thrilling. I felt like it gave me more creative licence to imagine on my own rather than my imagination being prompted by memories or previous pictures. I greatly enjoyed the element of history within this book, I learned a great deal about the Magdalene Laundries over the course of this book and was shocked to discover how recent the Laundries were and how many people suffered because of them. It was interesting to learn about the power of the church in Ireland during that time because it wasn’t really something I had thought about before. I enjoy Detective/Murder mysteries that incorporate the past and the present, so this was always going to be a winner for me. The cohesive nature of the team made me think that there was hope for all the murders they came across. They were able to get the job done but still tell a story along the way. I was very impressed with Jo Spain’s writing style and how much heart I found within the novel.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the Tom Reynolds series and any stand alone books the author has written!

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