I was very pleased when I received an email a couple of days ago from Helen Smith, asking if I would like a copy of her new short story for review. It's just gone live on Amazon so this review is a hot off the press type thing! I read her book Being Light back in December and really enjoyed both the story and her style so it took all of a second to ping a message back saying Yes please! This (longish) short story is an introduction to amateur sleuth Emily Castles, who will be featuring in a mystery series.
In this story Emily is going to a Bonfire Night party at a neighbouring house, hosted by the inhabitants who are performance artists of various sorts. Emily is mourning the recent loss of her dog and sees the invite as an opportunity to socialise, but in the course of the evening she finds herself investigating a murder that may or may not have occured.
While we don't learn a huge amount about her background Emily is an interesting, quirky character and I'm sure we'll gradually discover more in the series. Despite the mention of a boyfriend he's possibly in the past, and although she knows her neighbours it is in a typical suburban passing kind of way. She comes across as a slightly solitary but very inquisitive individual. The other characters range from the harassed mum of three to the doctor of ethics via Hungarian performers and form a colourful cast.
From the beginning I was amused by the imagery used, for example describing fireworks as "like Midget Gems suspended mid-rinse in a toddler's open mouth" Comical but very graphic. I was also very pleased to see how well formatted and proofread it was - some of my recent kindle reads have been somewhat lacking on those fronts. I found myself laughing often, and the darker humour as the story progresses is the sort of thing I enjoy but may not be to everyone's taste. Emily's wanderings round the house and gardens as the story developed really drew me in and when I had to take a break from reading I found myself weighing up the story so far and debating with myself about what might happen. In short I thought this was a great read from start to finish and will be looking out for the series.