Publication: 18th October 2018 – Simon & Schuster UK
Welcome to Castle Kidbury – a pretty town in a green West Country valley. It’s home to all sorts of people, with all the stresses and joys of modern life, but with a town square and a proper butcher’s. It also has, for our purposes, a rash of gory murders
Jess Castle is running away. Again. This time she’s running back home, like she swore she never would.
Castle Kidbury, like all small towns, hums with gossip but now it’s plagued with murder of the most gruesome kind. Jess instinctively believes that the hippyish cult camped out on the edge of town are not responsible for the spate of crucifixions that blights the pretty landscape. Her father, a respected judge, despairs of Jess as she infiltrates the cult and manages, not for the first time, to get herself arrested.
Rupert Lawson, a schooldays crush who’s now a barrister, bails her out. Jess ropes in a reluctant Rupert as she gatecrashes the murder investigation of DS Eden. A by-the-book copper, Eden has to admit that intuitive, eccentric Jess has the nose of a detective.
As the gory murders pile up, there’s nothing to connect the victims. And yet, the clues are there if you look hard enough.
In this novel there are murders, suspects, sacrificial rituals, and yet I found myself laughing page after page. It all starts the morning the protagonist, Jessica “Jess” Castle, goes back home to Castle Kidbury after suddenly leaving her academic job at Cambridge. She receives a cold welcoming by her father, the Judge, but their unhappy reunion is overshadowed by the discovery of the body of a local man. As the investigation begins, pagan symbols and rituals comes to light. To escape her strained and complicated relationship with her father and because of her knowledge and degrees in ancient history and mythology, Jess offers her help to the lead investigator, DS Eden, who, unwillingly, accepts it.
While the body count increases and everyone becomes a suspect, Jess has to face her relationship with her father, a possible love interest, and she has to decide what to do with her life.
JESS CASTLE AND THE EYEBALLS OF DEATH is such a fun and enjoyable read. I loved the small town atmosphere. Thanks to the author’s attention to details I could almost imagine it. Castle Kidbury is one of those idyllic towns where everyone knows everyone and their secrets and where nothing exciting ever happens, at least until someone goes on a murder spree. The town is inhabited by a cast of very colorful characters, from Richard and Dough, the quirky owners of the charity shop where Jess volunteers, to Bogna, her father’s housekeeper, from Patricia, the self-important mayor, to Mary, Jess’s outspoken and lively best friend. And I truly enjoyed the witty exchanges between Jess and DS Eden, often interrupted by the absurd interjections of DC Knott. There was so much humour that I almost forgot that they were investigating gruesome murders.
The story is so well-written and the characters so well-crafted that everyone seems a suspect and until the end I couldn’t figure out who the killer was. Everything is revealed with a surprising and twisty ending worth of an Agatha Christie novel. Engaging, sharp, and refreshing, JESS CASTLE AND THE EYEBALLS OF DEATH is a mystery novel that will keep you glued to the pages and I’d like to thank Jess Barratt and Simon & Schuster UK for providing me with an early copy of this charming and brilliant book.