Death Under A Little Sky (2023) by Stig Abell

Jake Jackson’s life as a police detective is over – as is his life as a married man. Bequeathed an isolated countryside house by his uncle, Jake sees this as the ideal opportunity to get away from it all – work, other people and life in general. With a library full of detective fiction, what more can someone ask for?

As Jake gets used to his new slow-paced life and gets to know some of the locals, he embraces the peace and quiet. But when a village tradition of hunting for a bag of bones ends with real human bones inside the bag, Jake cannot help but get involved in reawakening a possible cold case. As the village turns his back on him, it rapidly becomes apparent that whatever darkness used to be there is still around – and determined to do whatever to stay hidden in the shadows.

It does seem a trend in some of my recent modern crime reads that a significant proportion of the plot needs to be about the lead character’s life, with the investigation of a crime being a second plot strand. Murder Under The Tuscan Sun, Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murderers and now Death Under A Little Sky. While the book references a lot of crime writers, both classic and modern(ish) – alas, no Brian Flynn – this is a very different breed of novel from those it references. And it really is rather good.

As I said, there are two strands of story here, Jake’s journey of self-discovery and his investigation into the mysterious bones, but they are intertwined very well. There are stretches where the investigation definitely takes a back-seat from Jake’s sauna-building, for example, but it is never far from the main narrative, and some of the events in the investigation are critical in his self-development.

This is a completely absorbing book. Jake’s story draws you in, as he starts to become accepted (very slowly in some cases) by the villagers and he begins to form a relationship with Livia, the local vet. This romance is really well done, with this reader really caring about whether or not they would get together or not. Similarly the mystery takes its time to coalesce, but it is time well-spent.

I’ll give the usual caveat, given the nature of the blog – I think the killer is more of a guessing game than a clued mystery. If there was a significant clue, I didn’t notice it. But as this isn’t that sort of novel, it really didn’t matter.

This is Stig Abell’s first piece of crime fiction and is definitely worth checking out. One of the freshest voices that I’ve read in a good while.

Death Under A Little Sky is out now in hardback and ebook from HarperCollins. Many thanks for the review e-copy from NetGalley.


  1. I like the sound of this. The premise reminds me a bit of Tana French’s The Searcher. In that book a retired American cop buys a cottage in a remote village in Ireland.


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