Shorestone Murders (Book #1 of The Detective Isobel Hester series),
by Karina Evans
How has you week been? Have you stumbled upon any new bookish treasures?
Today, I’m sharing my review for Shorestone Murders (Book #1 of The Detective Isobel Hester series), by Karina Evans.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
The story is set in Shorestone, a small seaside village in the UK and takes place over just a few short days.
When a young woman is found murdered, the local investigators come to believe that her death is part of a larger pattern. As such, they invite DS. Isobel Hester back to Shorestone to take up the case. However, Isobel left Shorestone twenty years ago and isn’t keen on returning any time soon. Despite this, the killer wants Isobel there, so he can ‘get to know her’ again.
When Isobel returns, she tries to reconnect with her estranged daughter, Scarlett, only to fail time and again. Still, as more young women turn up dead, Isobel receives mysterious letters from the killer, who is keen to get close to her through her loved ones.
But, who is the Shorestone killer, and can Isobel identify him in time before she loses those most precious to her?
For the purposes of this review, I’ve decided to focus on four of the lead cast; the mysterious killer, Detective Sergeant Isobel Hester, Detective Inspector Dominic White, and their colleague Heather.
The Shorestone killer is introduced to us immediately as someone who gets a sick sense of enjoyment out of strangling women to death. Over time, we learn that he has a persistent obsession with Isobel Hester, although it is not initially made clear to us why this is the case. We know they are a man as the passages from his point of view are prefaced by the title HIM. I actually had a lot of fun trying to figure out who the killer was and was not surprised at the end. (No spoilers here, I promise.)
Detective Sergeant Isobel Hester is a woman who has been hardened by the world she has grown up in. She had a tumultuous past and seemed particularly guarded once she returned to Shorestone. Initially, she seemed impatient and blunt, and not at all likable as a character. However, as time progressed, I came to know more of her past and of the tragedies that helped to shape her current sense of self. For example, we learn that she blames herself for her brother’s death, something which would no doubt change a person forever. In addition to this, we learn that Isobel had a child, whom she abandoned in Shorestone twenty or so years ago, a daughter named Scarlett. Initially, Isobel begins the story attempting to reconnect with Scarlett but not feeling she could be a capable mother. However, as the story unfolds, Isobel learns to shake off her fears and is eventually able to solidify her relationship with her daughter.
Detective Inspector Dominic White is an older officer with an obsession for coffee. Planning to retire in nine years time, he likely didn’t anticipate receiving a new murder case in the quiet seaside town of Shorestone. Dominic showed himself to be a cautious, loyal, and determined individual, always thinking things through and helping out his friends and colleagues when they were in need. He knows tragedy all too well as he lost his wife and children in a car crash previously, something which made me deeply sympathise with his character. Overall, he was a reliable and friendly character, the type of person you’d want on your side when things get tough.
Heather was an interesting addition to the story. She has an intense dislike for Isobel because of past events which transpired between them, and she has never forgiven Isobel since. She plans to get revenge on Isobel and is jealous of the growing bond Isobel has with Dominic, a man whom Heather is desperately in love with. Heather presents as a very bitter woman, with no family or real friends of her own. Her loneliness is further explored as the story continues, reaching a high point when she considers taking her own life. Additionally, Heather’s past point of view helps to show us an alternative view of Isobel, to show the kind of state she was in as a young woman, and how she treated people in her past, even if she doesn’t remember doing so. Although I disliked Heather for the most part, I could also empathise with her plight and could see the speck of goodness that lay within her bitter exterior.
There were many positives to Shorestone Murders, which I’ve included below:
- Interestingly, we get a brief glimpse of the killer’s point of view first. This intrigued me as I wanted to get to know the killer better, to understand the why behind their heinous actions.
- The story was complex, exploring both a fascinating murder case, while also delving into Isobel’s ragged past and related issues.
- I especially liked that Heather’s past with Isobel was explored in a flashback section, to give us added context for Heather’s disagreeable feelings toward her. Likewise, Isobel’s chaotic past is also explored here.
- Reading the backstory of Isobel and her daughter Scarlett brought me close to tears. I could relate to what she was feeling, about not being strong enough to be Scarlett’s mum at the time she gave birth to her.
- I liked how Isobel and Dominic formed a sort of no-nonsense friendship, where they could tell each-other everything, even bluntly if need be.
- The ending was well-executed, although it was admittedly a little sad. (If you read the book, you’ll see why.)
Although the story was mostly positive, one thing did frustrate me a little. Unfortunately, this story wasn’t much of a mystery. I had hoped there would be alternative suspects who would be taken in for the murders, but apart from one individual who is suspected briefly, there is only one person I could think the killer to be. Sadly, this meant I had worked out who the killer was quite quickly. It just seemed too obvious. Because of this, the story lost some of its excitement and mystery.
Two quotes in particular stood out to me while reading Shorestone Murders.
1) ‘It’s funny how something that changes the course of one person’s life can have such little effect on another.’
2) ‘Don’t let your past kill your future.’
Overall, Shorestone Murders was an intriguing tale of how one’s past can deeply affect their future. I enjoyed reading this book, wanting to see what the killer would do next. Unfortunately, I figured out who it was quite early on.
Key themes included: the past, family, and obsession.
My Rating: 4 stars.
Recommended to: lovers of thriller novels with complex female protagonists, that focus on the past as a core theme.
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