Monday, 6 March 2017

Book Review: SHALLOW END by Brenda Chapman

Shallow End (Stonechild and Rouleau Mystery, #4)

Title: Shallow End
Author: Brenda Chapman
February 2017
Expected publication: 4 April 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Teacher, mother, wife, and convicted child molester Jane Thompson makes parole after losing everything — her husband, her children, her career, and her reputation. But just as she begins trying to build a life out of the public eye, the bludgeoned body of the student she abused four years earlier is found on the shores of Lake Ontario. Sergeant Rouleau assigns officers Stonechild and Gundersund to head up the murder investigation and Jane quickly becomes their prime suspect.

Meanwhile, Stonechild’s niece, Dawn, has been skipping school and running into trouble in foster care. Gundersund is more trapped than ever in his failing marriage, and Rouleau struggles to come to terms with the death of his ex-wife. But all their problems take a back seat as the investigation picks up steam. Stonechild and Gundersund wade through buried secrets to find the truth, which will take them on a twisted journey to the heart of cruelty. The question is — who will come out alive on the other side? 

My thoughts:

Five years ago, Jane Thompson, wife and mother of two, lost everything she held dear when she was convicted of sexually abusing one of her students, 12-year-old Devon Eton. Now, having served her prison sentence, she is out on parole, trying to get her life back together and fighting to get access to her kids, who are living with her ex-husband and his new partner. Living in a shabby flat and working as an unskilled shop assistant to make ends meet and comply with the conditions of her parole, her existence is about as far removed from her previous life as it can get. Then Devon’s body is found murdered on the shores of Lake Ontario, and she is suddenly the prime suspect again. But what motive would she have to murder Devon? This is a question Detectives Stonechild and Gundersund will be asking themselves many times in the course of a murder investigation which has as many turns and twists as an elaborately constructed labyrinth. Trying to see their way through the lies, they must uncover the truth to bring the murderer to justice.

Shallow End was an intriguing and clever murder mystery, and I was delighted to find out that this is part of a series featuring the troupe of detectives I had become very fond of in the course of reading this novel. Thankfully, I did not feel disadvantaged by not knowing the characters’ previous histories, though I am now more than eager to pick up earlier instalments in the series to remedy that. Why did Kala lose custody of her niece Dawn? And why did Gundersund’s marriage get into trouble? I must say I thoroughly enjoyed all the characters Brenda Chapman has created in this addictive series, and look forward to reading a lot more about them. Chapman’s skill as a writer is evident in her well rounded, true-to-life characters, who seem to leap off the page and acquire a personality all of their own.

As to the events in Shallow End: if the band of detectives wasn’t enough to keep my interest, the rest of the storyline alone kept me devouring this book until late into the night. A teacher accused of abusing one of her students – certainly a current and contentious topic. As a former special education teacher herself, it is obvious that the issue lies close to the author’s heart and she tackles it with sensitivity and grace whilst weaving it into an utterly compelling story. There are a lot of surprises along the way, so don’t get complacent reading it – just when I thought it is all over, a surprise revelation delivers a final sucker punch I did not see coming. I thoroughly enjoyed Shallow End – even better that it opens the door to a whole crime series I am sure will keep me entertained for hours to come.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 


He prided himself on his reasonableness. He wore it like a sanctimonious cloak every day of their marriage.

"Are you naturally creepy or do you have to work at it?"

"This isn't your circus, son. Those aren't your monkeys."

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