January 8th 2019: She Lies In Wait by Gytha Lodge

Disclaimer: A digital copy of She Lies In Wait was provided to me by Random House Publishing in exchange for my honest review. It will be available to the public on January 8, 2019.

Thirty years after she went missing from a party, 14-year-old Aurora Jackson is finally found dead not far from where she was last seen. Detective Inspector Jonah Sheens takes over the murder investigation with his team, including a newly recruited detective-in-training, DC Hanson, and begins to unravel the decades-old mystery behind Aurora’s disappearance. Sheens, who went to high school with the victim and her friends, battles with his own memories from the time of her disappearance, and his team begins to think he may know more than he is letting on.

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Set in England, She Lies In Wait explores teenage party culture, the extent friends will go to in order to protect one another, and how actions made during youth stay with people throughout their lives. As the six people who last saw Aurora alive are dragged into the investigation, Sheens begins to wonder if they have been hiding something for the past thirty years, and how far they will go to conceal their behaviour from three decades earlier.

She Lies In Wait is the first in what is promised to be a series of police procedural novels centering around Jonah Sheens. Gytha Lodge, a playwright and novelist, studied English at Cambridge before earning her MFA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia. She is undoubtedly a skilled writer and has a knack for writing realistic dialogue. She Lies In Wait is clean, believable, and compelling enough that I got through it in only a matter of days.

For a police procedural series to work, the leading character – in this case Jonah Sheens – has to be compelling enough to keep a reader interested over the course of several novels. It’s no easy feat to create a character with such depth and such a fascinating backstory that fans will want to keep coming back. The most successful procedurals, like the Alex Cross and Harry Hole series, revolve around characters that are complex, at times problematic, and ultimately likeable in their desire to solve mysteries and catch bad guys. Both Alex Cross and Harry Hole also struggle with internal problems and complicated relationships throughout the course of their series, making them more real and relatable.

While She Lies In Wait is only the first book and there is lots of room for growth, Jonah Sheens has yet to solidify himself in my mind as a true leading character. His backstory was patchy and his actions questionable, and while he came across as intelligent and brave, he didn’t do anything bold enough to ingrain himself as a real police hero. In fact, it was Juliette Hanson, the newest detective on the team that drove the story. Her quick-thinking, personal trauma and ability to stand up to authority made her a seemingly better police officer than Sheens.

Gytha Lodge will be a writer to look out for in the future. I’m not sure I’ve been completely convinced to tune in for the next installment in the Jonah Sheens series, but her writing was strong and her plot was well thought out, so it’s likely that the next book will be better than the first.