Top Tier (4 to 5 stars)

The Dead of Midwinter [DI Joseph Stone #1], by J.R. Sinclair

4 out of 5 stars. Well done mystery with just the right pace that will grip you right from the start.

4 stars

It seems nowadays that every policeman – in literature or the movies – must have a bad family life or big trauma to live with. So, shall we investigate the drama of Joseph’s life?

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It all started sixteen years ago when he lost his toddler son, due to a car crash that involved a deer – and a psychotic killer at the start of his career, starting with animals (and scaring the stag into the road). And it might continue today, because the psycho is back – and he’s got Joseph’s daughter.

I have to admit that the start of this story was very gripping, getting it’s hooks into you right there. A look to the the past, a look to the future – and we’re right in the middle. (Although it seems JR got carried away by time and dates – sixteen years and five days later, and then a week prior to that, would NOT be the same day. It would be two days earlier.)

Math might be important, but surely language is importanter. Or something like that.

So we have the psycho serial killer, the detective with a broken life who’s full of self doubting – and a personal feud between the two of them. And of course our hero detective gets initially banned from the investigations by the (inherently incompetent) higher-ups, while later on he’s not taken seriously. There are some cliches at work here, but then again, they’re cliches for a reason – because they work. And for a certain kind of crime genre, you kind of expect this. And the killer kidnapping the detective’s daughter is just the last straw needed to make it all very personal. (It’s kind of a textbook setup, really.)

The story progresses in a good pace, drawing the reader in. There’s enough procedural elements to make the police portion of the story feel real, and there’s enough foreboding to rake up the thrills. It’s actually the kind of crime mystery I love reading during the darker hours, maybe with a cup of tea instead of my usual coffee, because the Oxford scenery makes me want to grab a tea.

Always nice when the scenery comes to live.

Oxford is a beautiful scenery to set this story into. The author even set up an online gallery with pictures from real life locations that appear during the story! The city as well as the people DI Joseph Stone meets during his investigations build a wonderful tapestry, the beauty of which is in stark contrast to the darker sides of the story. Because make no mistake – this is a crime mystery with a dark heart, nothing cozy about it, and people are going to die.

The pace is perfect for a mystery like that, you won’t even notice the passage of time while reading it. And of course there is the mandatory twist, as required per law for every mystery book. (What law, you ask? Well, the law of good books, of course.)

Yeah, me too.

But to be honest, being the avid reader of mysteries that I am, I wasn’t all that surprised and had already figured out that one guy for the perp. (There’s more to it, but no, I’m not going to tell you more, because spoilers.)

So, for me, 4 out of 5 stars, really enjoyable mystery. But while the ending didn’t exactly feel rushed, the blatant confession of the perp being sure to be scott free now was a little cliche and felt like it could have done with a little more love. But that’s criticism on a high level, and personally, I’m interested in the next steps of DI Joseph Stone.

Disclaimer: I’ve received a free Advanced Reader’s Copy and am leaving this review voluntarily.

By Stefan

father of two, not enough time to read everything I want to read

2 replies on “The Dead of Midwinter [DI Joseph Stone #1], by J.R. Sinclair”

Bonus stars for you, Stefan, because this was an elegant – and indeed an eloquent! – review! I am going to see if my local library has this one on order!

Liked by 2 people

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