📖The Corfe Castle Murders (Dorset Crime Book 1) by Rachel McLean

After being injured in a bomb attack, Lesley is presented with a choice – early retirement, or a period of respite in a calmer location.

But things don’t stay calm for long.

Before she’s even started her new job, Lesley is dragged into investigating a murder at one of England’s most iconic landmarks, the imposing Corfe Castle.

Lesley must hit the ground running. Can she get along with her new partner DS Dennis Frampton, a traditionalist who doesn’t appreciate her style? How will she navigate the politics of a smaller force where she’s a bigger, and less welcome, fish? And most importantly, can she solve the murder before the killer strikes again?

I was supposed to read all through this past weekend but life had other plans. This was an impulse buy. I check out the Kindle store weekly and always come away with a purchase or two. (Side note – does anyone else get annoyed that you have to buy kindle books individually, like you can’t add them to a basket and pay altogether? I find that infuriating).

Every summer as a child I visited Dorset where my Granny lived, so I am well versed in the area without actually living there. I have been to Corfe Castle many times.

From the beginning this story led me to characters that were believable. Characters that had baggage. Characters that could change. It’s a fine thing to invent a character but it’s another thing entirely to bring that character to life in a way that seems wholly believable to the reader.

DCI Lesley Clarke, new to Dorset clearly has some skeletons in her closet but she wastes no time getting into the thick of things. There is an element of play in the characters she meets on the force – some of that ‘small towns don’t see much crime’ trope. It was enjoyable actually to see it mentioned because it gave the overall story more ground to stand on.

A lot of American authors write crime novels in small towns and a lot of the time it just reads as totally preposterous and makes the characters seem fake and ill-suited to the profession they’re in. Here however, it was handled well.

This book – on Kindle – is 350 pages. In this instance that didn’t feel nearly long enough to conclude a book and I raced through it in a breakneck speed. I am partial to those books that prompt me into an adrenaline frenzy while reading.

Outside of DCI Lesley, we are introduced to ‘Dennis’ DS Frampton. ‘Johnny’ DC Chiles. ‘Mike’ DC Legg. PC ‘Tina’ Abbott.

The dynamics of the group when Lesley arrives speaks of age old ‘policework’ where not much change has happened. Dennis, a character with a grumpy chip on his shoulder, holds very strict ideals of how the force should be run and Johnny has spent 8 years working under him – so getting the two of them to branch out of their box is a running storyline within the plot. Mike is more relaxed towards Lesley’s way of working, he has been there the least and is more interested in climbing the career ladder.

I can see the beginnings of a journey between the characters I met in this first book. Hopefully they will come to trust each other and be more cohesive as the series progresses.

Lesley doesn’t make herself seem any more professional or proper, she acts as she would have – I assume – back in Birmingham. She makes no excuses for her character or behaviour and I honestly found that quite refreshing. She has a clean eye and while she is a stickler for police protocol, she also operates on a ‘find the evidence, build the case’ mantra.

Lesley is dealing with the past – a past that as a reader we are largely unaware of – there is also her personal life back in Birmingham, which seemed a little stereotypical in its set up, but I think will serve the character better as the series progresses. The blurb of this book actually explains more about her past than the book itself goes into!

As to the reveal. Well, it was always going to be one of 2 people and I chose incorrectly. I haven’t quite figured out whether I came to my decision on my own free will or whether the book steered me that way. Regardless, I was wrong, and honestly, the books I don’t get correctly on are usually the most rewarding for me.

The Corfe Castle Murders is the first book in a series of 6 (and yes, I now have books 2-5 in my library). I wouldn’t call this a ‘cozy crime’ book but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a ‘crime thriller’ either. I think it sits pretty nicely in the middle of the crime genre. My opinion may change as I read further into the series.

I give this book: ✨✨✨✨✨

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