Fiction Ed’s Book Review

The first in the new Dales Detective series.

A man stands at the edge of a train platform. The train approaches. The last thing he knows is the blow to his back that sends him falling…

Follow that with a stranger riding his motorcycle into the small Dales town of Bruncliffe, where he was born and grew up but where he has never felt he belonged – an arrival watched with dismay by the locals.

Now, an opening like that is going to compel you to read on, isn’t it?

By page 7 of “Date With Death”, I was hooked. So the good news is that this is the first in a new series, the Dales Detective, by Julia Chapman, who has already given us another successful series, the Fogas Chronicles, written as Julia Stagg.

By page 19 we have another death, and both, we learn, are clients of Delilah’s Dales Dating Agency. Coincidence? Hmmm….

Julia really keeps up the pace, but it’s not at the expense of any characterisation. She introduces a cast of locals – with names like Seth Thistlethwaite; try saying that quickly! – delicately and unobtrusively weaving in their back stories just as she gently draws the reader further and further into the plot.

And that plot centres on Delilah, and that stranger I mentioned, Samson O’Brien, dismissed from the police force and retreating to his home town to set up the dales Detective Agency. That he should happen in to town just as the first death occurs, that death seeming to lead to a trail of others, and all leading inexorably towards Delilah…

This really is a cracking, good fun, entertaining read that I romped through almost at one sitting.

I’m delighted that Julia has turned her considerable writing skills to a short story especially for The People’s Friend, with “Pie, Paper And Pyjamas” – not a murder mystery but a lovely thoughtful story, starring that same Seth Thistlethwaite and set in Bruncliffe. It’s in Special 142, on sale June 21.

“Date with Death” by Julia Chapman, the first novel in the Dales Detective Series, is out now in Pan Macmillan paperback, £7.99.

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