Perfect Sins

Jo Bannister departed from her Brodie Farrell mysteries in Deadly Virtues, when she introduced a new series featuring young police constable Hazel Best, and the “Rambles with Dog” character of Gabriel Ash, a former government employee whose life has been turned upside down.

The two return in this compelling sequel, Perfect Sins, along with Ash’s dog, Patience, whose thoughts only Ash can hear, but who makes the kind of measured and sometimes snarky comments that add to the tone. Bannister doesn’t overdo Patience’s comments, either, keeping them to a minimum, but they lighten up what could be a somber tone, as Ash is trying to find out if his wife or two sons, kidnapped by pirates, could possibly still be alive.

Four years have past since their disappearance but Ash remains committed to following up any lead he possibly can in order to keep his fragile sanity and continues to follow his own path of questions. With Hazel still on leave after the shooting that ends Deadly Virtues, they finds themselves visiting Hazel’s father at the gatehouse of Byrfield House, an estate that has been in the aristocracy for generations.

The plot revolves around a mound near the ice house on the grounds belonging to Pete, Lord Byrfield, that is opened by a local archeologist, David Sperrin. Hazel has known Pete for years and considers him a friend, so it’s no surprise she becomes involved when the mound turns out not to be an ancient burial mound, but the more contemporary resting place for a little boy from about thirty years ago. Just who those bones belong to bring up more secrets kept than any of the participants can possibly imagine.

As Hazel is drawn back into the police work she loves, Ash finds his own questioning has stirred up some very nasty consequences for them both that put their lives in danger. One of the nicest things is that Hazel values friendship. Hers with Ash is not a sexually charged relationship, but one that shows that men and women can truly care about each other and remain caring friends without becoming romantically involved.

Intricately plotted, and with a nice touch for the vagaries of family life and relationships, this complex plot has a few surprises to reveal and its ending packs a wallop that will have readers searching for the next installment.