The Corfe Castle Murders (2021) by Rachel McLean

DCI Lesley Clarke was a top officer in the Birmingham police force but when she was injured in a bomb attack, she was relocated to a distinctly more peaceful location, namely Dorset. But before she has even started work, Lesley comes across a murder – the death of an archaeologist, found with his head caved in by some sort of hammer.

With tensions high with the small group of people on the Corfe Castle dig, Lesley has her work cut out for her when she discovers that her new team are not exactly on her wavelength, not least her DS, Dennis Frampton. When the killer strikes again, Lesley and her team must come together, otherwise someone will literally get away with murder.

When you’re browsing the Kindle store, you get a lot of recommendations and some turn up more than others. The Corfe Castle Murders has been brought to my attention so much that it’s almost a challenge not to read it. So, Amazon, challenge accepted. Game on.

First of all, while this is Book One of the Dorset Crime series, completists should know that it’s a spin-off from another series, the DI Zoe Finch books. The bomb attack apparently happened in one of those books, so there’s presumably some back story that, while alluded to here, is given in more detail therein. There’s enough given here, although it’s not clear if there’s a mystery behind her move or not. For any fans of that series, Zoe Finch turns up in a cameo here. Just in case that’s important to you.

At the end of the day, though, while this was an easy read, it had too many shortcomings for me. DS Frampton is a very odd character – while I buy the religious, blinkered viewpoint, how many Detective Sergeants would really not treat a suspect as a serious possibility just because they wear a crucifix? While the issue of the swear jar is an interesting idea – Lesley swears like a trooper and just ignores it – the conflict mostly seems to be there for the sake of there being conflict. Also, the “murders don’t happen in Dorset” vibe that keeps recurring is just a bit too basic for me.

The biggest problem though is that the case simply isn’t that interesting. Four archaeologists, two of which end up dead, and a couple of tangential suspects isn’t enough of a cast to generate enough of a mystery. Belton Cobb managed it a few times, but he had those things… what are they called… oh yes, clues, not having a convenient bundle of evidence show up at the death.

I was hopeful this would be a new series for me to dig into, and while it’s a perfectly adequate read to pass the time, there’s not enough here to pull me back in.

By the way, as a counterpoint, this has 4.20/5.00 on Goodreads, which means it’s better than Death On The Nile. Have you read it? Am I being too harsh here?

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