Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Where Petals Fall by Shirley Wells

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Where Petals Fall by Shirley Wells. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Where Petals Fall by Shirley Wells

A Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham Mystery

Soho Constable (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-56947-572-5 (1569475725)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56947-572-0 (9781569475720)
Publication Date: May 2009
List Price: $25.00

Review: Forensic psychologist Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham are shouldering more than their fair share of collective guilt. She is on stress leave, worry-ridden whether she made the right call in an earlier case where a suicide “wrongly accused, hanged himself” and wondering what it will be like to return to work shortly. Her own husband was a cop killed in a street shoot-out. Trentham hasn’t fared too well either, what with his superiors constantly nagging him, a mole in his squad room leaking information to the press, and himself a widower with two boys to raise and Jill to deal with both as a colleague and a lover. Now, they are haunted by the vicious death of a young woman that leads them to believe a serial killer may have returned from the dead. Part British police procedural and part psychological thriller, Wells’ Where Petals Fall is total entertainment.

What Jill and Max quickly discover is that 38-year-old floral designer, Carol Blakeley, has been murdered and her body left in Lee Quarry where two lads find it. The MO for the killing is identical to that of an alleged serial killer’s five years earlier when four other young married women had their throats slashed, their bodies wrapped in a white undertaker’s shroud, and their wedding rings threaded onto red ribbons tied around their midriffs. The earlier case was closed when the suspect was killed while fleeing the police, but his body was never found in the car that plunged into the sea. Now, the Kennedy-Trentham duo have to set aside Jill’s demons and their own domestic upsets to concentrate on finding Blakeley’s killer and keeping their supervisors, critics and the media at bay.

They go about their business in fine style. Despite the nagging reminders of "The Undertaker," as the press dubbed the serial killer, Jill and Max deal with the realities of the current apparent suspects. Blakeley’s philandering husband is a prime candidate, especially when a girlfriend turns on him. Then there’s a next-door neighbour of Jill’s who keeps popping up at all the wrong times but in the right places. There’s even a supposedly close friend of Blakeley’s who deserves every bit of the scrutiny she gets from Max, Jill and their colleagues as they sift and sort the similarities of the clues from the present and past murders.

Like other first-class British mystery novels, this one by Wells is tightly structured, keeps the reader guessing about whodunit, and has characters with depth, soul and interesting backgrounds. Who doesn’t feel compassion for Jill as she struggles on her comeback trail past her doubting Thomas colleagues? And surely, most readers will be on Max’s side when he takes on his browbeating supervisors more interested in career moves than in solving a particularly pernicious crime? And when the two have solved the case, who isn’t ready for their next one?

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ([email protected]) for contributing his review of Where Petals Fall and to Soho Press for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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Synopsis (from the publisher): When two young boys find a woman’s body in a quarry, Jill Kennedy and DCI Max Trentham experience a definite feeling of déjà vu.

Five years earlier, four women were found murdered in exactly the same way. Weirdly the bodies had each been discovered wrapped in a shroud – so the killer was soon dubbed "The Undertaker".

Following Jill’s profiling the police tried to arrest a loner called Edward Marshall, but the man had fled and, after a high-speed car chase, lost control and went over a cliff. His car was found but his body never was.

Now there are three possibilities: Marshall somehow survived the plunge into the sea; Marshall was innocent and the real killer is back – or a copycat is at work. It is up to Jill and Max to work out whether a terrible mistake was made by the police five years ago ... or whether the original murderer had an apprentice waiting in the wings.

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