Lest We Forgive (Detective Liz Moorland #1), by Phillipa Nefri Clark

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Phillipa Nefri Clark for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having read and enjoyed a previous novel by Phillipa Nefri Clark, I eagerly grabbed for this ARC. Clark spins a great crime thriller with this novel, combining a police manhunt with a family struggling to put the pieces back together. Set in Australia, there is an added flavouring to the story, though the setting is enough of a backdrop that the novel would work in any locale. Impactful until the final pages, Clark proves that she is one to watch in what appears to be the debut of a new series.

After a horrible car accident claims the lives of her parents, eight-year-old Melanie is left in limbo. Having been in the vehicle at the time, she suffers a number of physical and psychological injuries, but will also need a guardian to take care of her. Melanie’s grandfather, Vince, is a former detective and has disappeared into the bottle since his wife’s death, alienating his own daughter in the process. With Melanie needing someone, Vince steps up to help, thinking that family is Melanie’s best option.

While Vince begins to wonder about the crash and whether it might have been a targeted hit, he has an inkling that his son-in-law’s business partner could be up to no good. When Vince reaches out to Homicide Detective Liz Moorland, she is anything but pleased. With the recent escape of a murderer from the local jail, Moorland has her hands full and does not need any half-baked ideas clouding her focus. Vince refuses to stand down and does his own exploration into things, including the night of the fatal crash.

While Vince is trying to help Melanie acclimate to a life with him, he’s able to make some headway on the case. Detective Moorland is willing to take another look, though her attention remains focused elsewhere, as new bodies pile up the more the manhunt intensifies. The pieces begin to come together, as Melanie begins to come out of her shell. She remembers things about the night of the crash, things that could implicate people to a larger crime. Vince will not rest until he gets to the bottom of what is going on, whether Detective Moorland wants to help or leave him to his own devices. The truth is out there, though someone is lurking in the shadows, wanting to tie off any loose ends that appear, even if that means wiping Melanie off the map. Clark offers up a chilling story that mixes the hunt for justice with the slow and methodical healing of a little girl.

There’s something about an author that can juggle multiple themes effectively in their writing that has me very impressed. Phillipa Nefri Clark does that with ease as she tackles a debut novel in this series, sure to be crime thriller based. Clark uses all the tools she has to paint a great picture of what is going on in a small community, as well as the struggles for truth and healing that are inherent when an accident harms a handful of people. A great balance of police procedural, mystery, and emotional connection, Clark weaves them all together to keep readers impressed throughout the journey.

With a strong narrative base, the story is sure to impress many who are looking for something that will capture their attention. Clark does well to keep things moving and never lets the momentum wane as the story and its plots become more involved. A handful of key characters keep things exciting for the attentive reader, offering multiple perspectives to enrich the story. I can only hope that Clark keeps the same recipe for the next book in the series, as I am eager to see what is to come of Detective Liz Moorland and the rest of the Melbourne Homicide Squad.

Kudos, Madam Clark, for a great start to the series. I cannot wait to see what’s to come.

Last Known Contact, by Phillipa Nefri Clark

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Phillipa Nefri Clark for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always up for a strong police procedural, this book by Phillipa Nefri Clark offers a great Aussie flavouring, as a missing persons case brings out a whole bunch of professional and personal skeletons from a closet already full of secrets. When Ellie Connor arrives back in Melbourne from a business trip, she is met with the headline that her father has gone missing. Jack Bannerman, CEO of Bannerman Wealth Group, was last seen headed to his yacht. Since then, his family and colleagues have been trying to find out where he might have gone. Ellie panics and scours the area, finding nothing but a voicemail asking her to go to their ‘secret spot’ where Jack’s left her a letter. There is nothing there, but Ellie’s estranged husband, Dennis, seems ready to dismiss any concerns Jack’s disappearance may bring. When police detective Ben Rossi arrives on scene, Ellie cannot help but remember the connection they once shared, making things a tad more awkward than she might have hoped. At the office, Bannerman Wealth Group’s Head of Security, Paul Dekeles tries to help and console Ellie, while also appearing to inch closer to her in a less than professional manner. When a local fisherman goes missing, everyone begins to wonder if a serial murderer might be on the loose, which is further exacerbated by the fact that a body is seen floating in the harbour. If this were not enough, Ellie soon learns of a major business decision of which she was not aware, something that could change the tenor of the investigation and open new possible leads to an already complicated case. A fast-paced story that keeps the reader guessing until all the pieces fall into place. Recommended for those who love a good mystery where family ties are severed, as well as the reader who enjoys a police procedural with some dramatic flair.

While I have never read Phillipa Nefri Clark, the dust jacket blurb alone made me want to dive right in. The story begins swiftly and never loses its momentum, as much is revealed about Jack Bannerman and the web many of the core characters have spun for themselves. At the centre of it all is Ellie Conner, whose return to Australia seems to have led to a massive investigation about her father’s disappearance. The reader learns much about Ellie’s backstory, including her closeness to a brother who was once quite a role model for her. After fleeing the confines of the family bubble, Ellie returns to make her mark on one part of the Bannerman empire, though some of her rash choices have not worked out as she had hoped. Struggling with some emotions for the man in charge of locating her father, Ellie must remain professional and try to determine where her future will take her. Discovering some less than savoury things that are going on within the family, Ellie tries to process it all without falling apart. Her connection to Jack Bannerman is obvious, but there is surely a strain between them that has yet to heal. Clark utilises a few other core characters who serve various roles, if not suspects in the disappearance. They each bring a little something to the table and provide the reader with the needed backstories to make their guilt quite plausible. Working in tandem, they help create added depth to an already great narrative and keep things on the mark throughout. The story was strong and the plot development had me quite impressed. With a mix of chapter lengths, Clark keeps the reader wondering where the next twist will come and how it plays into the larger theme of the book. Part mystery, part emotional discovery, this is one book that is sure to make waves and earn Phillipa Nefri Clark a slew of new fans, myself included.

Kudos, Madam Clark, for a highly entertaining piece. I cannot wait to see what else you’ve written and see how it compares to this piece.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons