Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Behind Closed Doors - JJ Marsh

'I want to take this case, turn out its pockets, hold it by the ankles and shake it upside down.'

Detective Inspector Beatrice Stubbs is working on her first case since a very serious incident in her personal life. She's been enlisted by her boss in London to head over to Zurich to work on what is termed a 'non-case' initially. There we follow her as she leads a small, multi-skilled international team looking into the deaths in recent years of several wealthy business men, so-called 'fat cats', all of whom seemingly died by suicide, and all of whom had questionable business practices. Did they all suddenly develop a conscience about the wrongs they had done, or was something else happening? The team starts to revisit the cases and discovers not only that they may not have actually been suicides at all, but that they may also all be linked. 

It made an interesting and pleasant change to read about an international team, and to have the main setting as Zurich. Several other European settings also feature, as chapters interspersed throughout the main story take us back and allow us to discover the different circumstances in which each of these wealthy men met their deaths. This slow revelation keeps us interested in where and how the different deaths occurred and what might link them. 

Beatrice has her own personal demons to battle. I'd like to know more about this side of her.  The author introduces us to some aspects of Beatrice's personal past but leaves a lot unsaid too, and concentrates for the most part on the crimes and the detective work. There are more books featuring her - this is the first - so I'll be interested to see how JJ Marsh develops her main character in the next and subsequent stories. This isn't a criticism; I thought there was just enough to make you want to know more about Beatrice, but not so much that her personal life dominated the story; a good balance. I like Beatrice; she is flawed and insecure, but also self-aware, determined and tenacious; she keeps a hold on her team despite their deciding to sometimes deviate from the jobs she has tasked them with, and slowly develops a successful working relationship with them, and in particular with the initially rather terse Herr Kรคlin, this is no mean feat. She has a way of using everyday sayings or idioms but altering them slightly, which is quirky and amusing. 

I enjoyed this story and thought it was a very well written, assured debut, with a distinctive main character in Beatrice, other interesting characters in the team, plus an intricate plot and an intriguing set of deaths that had me wondering, not just about who had done this, but how and precisely why. I enjoyed the interactions between the international team, and the choice of locations for the story; I visited Zurich many years ago and this novel had me wanting to return. 

I also felt it was a lovely physical edition, with a gorgeous cover both in terms of appearance and the soft, smooth feel; it was a pleasure to hold whilst reading. 

Published by Triskele Books 

Triskele Books is a writers' collective - click the name to find out more. 

Thanks to the author for kindly sending me a copy of this novel to read and give an honest review.

You can find the author on twitter @JJMarsh and visit her website here.

The next two books featuring Beatrice Stubbs are available now :-

Raw Material - Amazon UK link

Tread Softly  - Amazon UK link


  1. Hi Lindsay, Zurich is certainly an interesting setting, and it does make a change from the more usual grimy back streets where many of these kinds of stories are set.
    I found your comment about the book being comfortable to hold really interesting – I thought it was only me that considered that kind of thing! Some books are too fat, too thin or just uncomfortable to hold. I enjoyed your review, thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thanks for commenting Barbara. Definitely makes for a different and interesting setting here, yes.
      No I really like the feel of some books, glad you notice that too!

  2. Thanks for such a thoughtful and perceptive reivew, Lindsay. I'm delighted Beatrice appealed to you. And yes, I've received so many positive comments on the cover. The combination of original artwork and the matte finish apparently makes the books 'strokable'! Thank you!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Jill, and for the kind words. Yes, strokeable certainly describes it well, very nice!

  3. I found the following two Beatrice Stubbs books - Raw Material and Tread Softly - just as riveting as this one!

    1. Thanks for commenting Liza. I hope to read the next two books too!


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