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Book Review : The Shell House Detectives by Emylia Hall

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts about The Shell House Detectives by Emylia Hall.

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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thomas & Mercer (1 July 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1662505124
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1662505126

Welcome to the coastal paradise of Porthpella, where murder lurks among the dunes…

Late one night, a distraught young man knocks on the door of retired and recently widowed Ally Bright’s remote home on the Cornish coast. But before she can make sense of his confused words, he’s gone―not to be seen again until he’s found the next morning at the foot of the nearby cliffs.

In an instant, the peace of Ally’s beachcombing life is shattered. Feeling responsible for the young man’s fate, she wants to help find answers―as does ex-cop Jayden Weston, whom Ally meets at the scene. He shares her certainty that there’s more to the story than attempted suicide. When it emerges that the man is newly released ex-offender Lewis Pascoe, and that Helena, the wealthy new owner of his grandmother’s home, has subsequently disappeared, the tight-knit community of Porthpella is thrown into turmoil.

Driven by their need to know more, the duo decide to investigate the mystery together. Is there a connection between the Pascoe family’s tragic history and Helena’s disappearance? And if there is a killer stalking Porthpella, do Ally and Jayden have what it takes to catch them?

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The Shell House Detectives Review

The Shell House Detectives is my favourite read so far this year.  I’ve loved every single thing about this story.  I was so very sad when it finished, books two (The Harbour Lights Mystery) and three (The Rockpool Murder) can’t come fast enough for me!

In all honesty I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  This isn’t a genre I’m interested in reading (although I like to watch fictional crime series).  Why read it then? I chose to read it because I’ve enjoyed Emylia Hall’s previous novels.  And I’m so glad I did!  If you’ve read this author’s previous books and you’re not sure about the change in genre, give this a go.  You WON’T be disappointed.  I guarantee it. 

This interview will Emylia Hall on Bristol247 is a fab read on why she changed genre (and more about the story).

From the intriguing prologue (what happened 5 years ago!?!) through getting to know the characters, the setting, the conflict and the resolution I’ve lived and breathed this amazing world Emylia Hall has created.  When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about this story.  And I often found myself wanting to pop down to Hang Ten for one of Saff’s cookies 🙂  There is so much that happens over the three days.

It’s not just about the mystery or the investigating (although that’s really cool and clever too) but also how easy it is to be invested emotionally in all the characters’ lives.  For me, these fictitious people drew me in completely.  I care about them (yes, present tense – I still do!).  Emylia Hall also tackles a few social issues in the telling of The Shell House Detectives.  There’s lots of depth and layers.

Ally and Jayden take the central leads but their lives touch so many others in this small community. There’s about 34 years difference in age between them and they complement each other perfectly.  They make an awesome detective team.  It’s not all smooth though!  They’re getting to know each other in this first story and I loved how they can get straight to the point and as a result, get to know themselves and their own needs better.

I couldn’t make up my mind about Roland, Nathan or Sebastien.  I wasn’t sure whether Jayden and Cat would last the distance.  I wanted Helena to find where she belonged. I had hopes for Gus and his future.  Constable Tim Mullins grew on me!    I’m excited for Saffron and what’s in her future.  Lewis is absent for most of the story but I felt his confusion and emotional pain and wanted so much more for him.  And OMG, the photo.  It broke me …

The setting is also a big feature.  Not just because it’s a part of the life of the community but is also (I felt) a character in its own right at times.  Set before the tourist season begins, you can really feel the isolation as well as the beauty of the natural world.   

Did I guess what happened?  No!  I’d finally made up my mind and was completely wrong.

I can’t wait to see where the tentative bonds take us.  As well as the crimes that need solving 🙂

This one is staying on my bookshelf.

About the Author

Emylia Hall lives with her husband and son in Bristol, where she writes from a hut in the garden and dreams of the sea. The Shell House Detectives is her first crime novel and is inspired by her love of Cornwall’s wild landscape. Emylia has published four previous novels, including Richard and Judy Book Club pick The Book of Summers and The Thousand Lights Hotel. Her work has been translated into ten languages and broadcast on BBC Radio 6 Music. She is the founder of Mothership Writers and is a writing coach at The Novelry.

You can follow Emylia on Instagram @emyliahall_author and on Twitter @emyliahall

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