‘My mother was a very difficult person, Inspector, and not always a very nice one. I can think of any number of people who would want her dead.’
For DI Pam Gregory, unravelling the murder of archaeologist Stephanie Michaels was always going to be hard, but she had no idea it would change her life.
In this remarkable crime debut, award-winning author Antoinette Moses takes the reader on a gripping journey from Cambridge to Crete to find a story that has been hidden for decades.
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll know that I love a good police procedural – Sarah Ward’s Connie Child series is a favourite of mine, and earlier this year I really enjoyed the first of A J Cross’s forensic mysteries, Dark Truths. And now, thanks to Antoinette Moses and A Public Murder, I have another series to look out for when I head for the bookshop!
A Public Murder introduces the reader to DI Pam Gregory. Smart, compassionate, and resilient, Pam has worked through both professional challenges and personal hardships to become the head of the East Anglian Special Operations Unit (EASOU). Although her boss would rather she spent more time on the paperwork and less time in the field, the unit is producing results, and the book opens with Pam and her team successfully wrapping up a long-running County Lines case.
Rather than celebrating their success however, Pam and her team are thrown straight into their next case when renowned archaeologist Stephanie Michaels is found dead – brutally stabbed and then ceremonially displayed on the horns of the Cretan bull at the centre of her new exhibition. Initial investigations show that there are many people who might have wanted to kill Stephanie but, as the investigation continues, the clues increasingly point towards Crete – and to a Cretan vendetta that may threaten Stephanie’s daughter, Jen.
With both the media and the political spotlight upon her, Pam is in a race against time both to find Stephanie’s killer and protect the future of her team. But as she lands in sunny Crete and begins to learn about the real Stephanie, Pam is forced to re-evaluate the priorities in her own life – and her own hopes and dreams for the future.
I have to admit that, when I started A Public Murder, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d get on with it. The book opens with the brutal killing of a cat, and the murder of Stephanie is also fairly gory. Animal death and gore are usually two of my bookish no-no’s but, in this instance, they really are the hardest hitting sections of the book – get past the first couple of chapters, and you’re in more gentle procedural territory, albeit with some mentions of or allusions to marital/domestic violence, drug use, alcohol abuse, racism, sexism, gaslighting, torture and violent crime. In all fairness, the violence is not excessive either – the way Stephanie and Skimbles (the cat) are killed does end up being very relevant to the story, so its essential not gratuitous.
I instantly warmed to DI Pam Gregory. She’s a fantastic lead character – smart but compassionate, she combines being a tough, resilient, and professional detective with a more in-secure and uncertain personal core. As such she felt well-rounded and fully realised, and I found myself as interested in the personal journey that she undertakes as the professional one.
The supporting characters are, for the most part, also well realised. I really like Josh, Pam’s second-in-command at EASOU, as well as Stavros, her liaison in Crete. Nikos Leotakis, the Cretan billionaire pulling the strings behind the scenes, was also a great character, and his involvement added an element of both glamour and danger to the case. I did, however, feel there were slightly too many named characters at times. Pam’s EASOU team, for example, are fairly large and I kept expecting some of them to make more of an appearance than they did. There were also a few subplots – mostly involving interpersonal relationships within the EASOU team – that felt somewhat redundant to the overall story, as well as some head-hopping from character to character that, often occurring without notice, took a little while to get used to.
This did not, however, detract from my enjoyment of that story. The central mystery of who killed Stephanie Michaels is a compelling one and I really enjoyed following Pam and her team as they carefully eliminated suspects and motives. I did feel that the Cretan part of the book would have benefitted from a little more space – without wanting to spoil anything, the killer and their motives are introduced a little late and I felt that the last 30 pages raced a little too quickly, with some rather sudden changes in tone and character, especially in the case of Stavros.
I also really enjoyed the depictions of both Cambridge and Crete. You can tell that the author is familiar with both locations and, especially in the case of Crete, the scenery and lifestyle were both vividly evoked on the page. I could practically imagine myself sat in the heat and eating all the delicious Greek food that is described! And I was fascinated to discover not only Stephanie’s life in Greece – which includes an important involvement in some little known Greek history – but also to follow Pam’s own journey of self-realisation on the island.
A Public Murder is a thrilling and accomplished police procedural that is sure to appeal to fans of the genre. With an intriguing and original main character, a compelling plot, and some fabulously realised locations, it’s the perfect summer read for crime fans – and I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens to DI Pam Gregory and her team next!
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 04 June 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.
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