The Wrecker’s Curse (2023) by Jo Silva

Donna Nightshade, the latest in a long line of Nightshades to rule the roost in Penberth Manor in Cornwall, has just opened a detective agency – the End Of The World Detective Agency, named after its location in Cornwall. This seems appropriate timing, as a Detective Agency might be just what’s needed when Jack Crowlas returns to town. Jack was the distinctly unpleasant ex-husband of Donna’s aunt, and it comes as no surprise to anyone when a) he’s still distinctly unpleasant and b) someone murders him.

Admittedly, nobody expected him to be murdered during a play, stabbed inside a kennel while wearing a dog costume that belonged to one of the actors – and that’s not the only odd thing about the murderer. The biggest problem for Donna, though, is that the Agency’s first case is to clear the name of the person running the agency. It seems that all the evidence points towards Donna, and most of the locals seem more than happy to believe it…

So, NetGalley, my source of review e-copies, sends me emails sometimes, suggesting things I’d like to review. The answer is usually either yes please, or goodness me, no. But occasionally, something catches my eye and the response is what the hell, I’ll give it a go.

I’m not quite sure what it was about this one that caught my eye – possibly the lack of quotes such as “in the style of Agatha Christie”, which as we all know, is never a good thing to see. The blurb makes it out to be a traditional cosy, but that’s really not the case here. I couldn’t find out much about the author – this is her first foray into crime fiction – and you know what? I really enjoyed it.

What’s not exactly clear from the blurb is that while this probably comes across as a cosy crime series – the sleuth is in love with the local police officer and has a pet (admittedly a macaw, not a cat) – it isn’t really. It’s a comedy crime series, although more in the sense of things going to all sorts of extremes than being full of one-liners. There’s some good backstory here, some of it revealed, some of it left for later instalments, and the dynamics between the characters is full of energy. The lead characters are far from saints, which does open up some possibilities in who did what to who that wouldn’t be there in a more traditional cosy.

As for the murder plot, you can see where it is going with the multiple murder methods quite early on, but even so, there are some good reveals, not least in a good misdirect with the identity of the murderer. There are clues to aspects of the plot, but a lot of it did seem to there to be guessed at, rather than figured out, and the motivations of at least one character were a little unclear to me – again, maybe that’s for Book Two.

There is also a great book-sized misdirect that adds a different spin on the book and where the series might go from here, but the less said about that the better…

It’s not perfect – there are times early on where the narrated sections and the third person sections seem to be written in the same voice (with the same amount of brackets) but this settles down by the halfway point, and I think there is perhaps a bit too much that the reader is told, rather than can figure out, although huge points for the effort taken to contrive a nicely complex plot rather than just the last person interviewed did it – another way this differs from most cosy crime efforts.

Most importantly though, I really enjoyed reading this book. Yes the plot gets a bit over the top at times – it’s a comedy, it’s allowed to be – but it kept me reading and put a smile on my face. And I can’t ask more than that. A really promising debut and I look forward to the next one.

The Wrecker’s Curse is out on 10th March 2023 as an ebook and 30th March 2023 as a paperback from One More Chapter, part of HarperCollins. Many thanks for the e-copy for review.

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