A Dark Sin by JM Dalgliesh

A Dark Sin by JM Dalgliesh
Publisher: Hamilton Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

Our darkest secrets are best left buried…

When a local journalist is found dead in an isolated spot on Roydon Common, lying beneath a hangman’s noose on the anniversary of a teenager’s suicide, DI Tom Janssen is asked to take on the investigation as a favour to local colleagues and must unpick the deceased man’s life to discover how he came to be there.

The dead man was working on something, a story he was keeping close to his chest and even those closest to him, loved ones and colleagues, were kept in the dark. He had his own secrets, a side to his character that he rarely showed to others unless they were unlucky. But what did he know that was so damaging as to be worth killing for?

As the team delve into his life, past and present, the investigation pulls in successful business people, grieving family members, and a local celebrity with fascinating stories to tell. As the investigation develops it becomes clear that more than one person is harbouring a secret… but are they secrets that are worth a man’s life? As past sins threaten to be exposed, will someone be forced into killing again?

Set within the mysterious beauty of coastal Norfolk, this fast-paced British detective novel is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end when the final shocking twist is revealed.

DI Tom Janssen is called out as a favour to look over the finding of a journalist’s body hanging in the Common. Only there are factors to the scene that don’t add up, so Janssen and his team begin to investigate the journalist’s life and work. Soon, a few small questions grow into something far larger, and it quickly becomes clear this was not a suicide but something far darker.

This is the eighth book in the Hidden Norfolk series, and I am really enjoying them all. I have found this – like all the previous books – to be a strong, police procedural style of murder mystery book. I thought the plot was decently plotted and complex enough to retain my interest from the opening pages, but with a slow enough pace I could really enjoy it and not feel like the action or characters were getting away from me. Set in Norfolk, I thought there was a good blend of large country town style of bustle but still with the slower pace and more “everyone knows everyone” type of connectivity. I enjoy this balance and find it really helped sell the book and storyline to me.

I also enjoyed how the characters of Tom’s team and the main characters – like Eric’s fiancée and Tom’s long-term girlfriend and young daughter – all were important in the story. This added an emotional depth to the police mystery style plot and helped me feel like this wasn’t only a murder story but also a part of a larger whole. I personally really enjoy this balance but also feel the author does a really good job of not having too much of the characters past cloud over what’s currently occurring. I feel this makes it really helpful for readers who have not read all the previous stories and helps this book stand far better on its own.

While I definitely feel readers will have a stronger emotional investment in the main characters and their happiness having read the previous books, I don’t feel it’s strictly necessary for readers to enjoy this particular story. The plot in particular is very self-contained inside this book and the characters are well introduced – so readers shouldn’t feel shy about picking this up and enjoying it regardless of whether they’ve read any of the previous books.

A well plotted murder mystery with excellent characters and a complicated but not overly convoluted plot, I really enjoyed this British story and am eager to read more by this author. Recommended.

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