Ellen Hart knocks another one out of the park. I continue with my mantra: if you love traditional detective fiction, few writers are doing it better than Ellen Hart at the moment. The air is sucked out of the room by some of the writers of traditional fiction set in England (Ann Cleeves, Deborah Crombie) or Canada (Louise Penny), but make no mistake, Ellen Hart is treading the same ground. She’s just doing it in Minnesota instead of London or Montreal. As much as I love Cleeves, Crombie and Penny, I love Hart every bit as much, and with 27 books in her Jane Lawless series (and counting) there’s plenty to embrace.
I am smitten with this series, now four books in. Slight spoiler: Detective Gemma Monroe is planning her wedding to Brody, father of baby Grace. This is more or less background, however, as Gemma deals with a car bombing that takes place in the first chapter. Set during Halloween, this novel is atmospheric and embraces the fear inherent in Halloween, rather than the cute ghostie trick or treating aspect of this now huge holiday. Littlejohn goes back to the root: scary things that go bump in the night. In this case, literally, an explosion.
The 26th novel in the Jane Lawless series is as good, as crisp, as memorable, as the first in the series. Jane, the calm center of every storm in her life, agrees to investigate a closed case (the alleged perpetrator is in prison) when her father, lawyer Raymond Lawless, asks. The case involves the murder of one partner by another – the partner was an obvious choice as the killer and was duly convicted. But.
Everyone Jane talks to – including her old friend, the flamboyant Cordelia – affirms the man’s goodness, and their disbelief that he could harm anyone. Many threads swirl around the case, which at first looked like a suicide. Ellen Hart, in her masterly way, uses these many threads to paint her complex portrait of a crime.