Earlier this year I read Black Rock Manor, a Holly Fleet mystery, by Shaun Baines and really enjoyed it. I loved the dark, gritty and violent “gangster noir” Daniel Dayton series from this author but the Holly Fleet series goes in the opposite direction being a cosy mystery that is much more upbeat. So on a cold and rainy autumn day I decided to sit down with a cup of tea and the follow up book in the series, Juniper Falls.
Juniper Falls is book number two in the Holly Fleet mystery series and continues to be set in the small village of Little Belton in Northumberland, around the Black Rock Manor estate. Holly Fleet is a forty-something, insecure but tenacious journalist, now editor of the local newspaper, and amateur detective that has already helped saved the village once, with the help of the estate gamekeeper Callum Acres. Now Holly and Callum have to help save the village again.
In the first book we saw Mrs Masterly become the new owner of Black Rock Manor, promising to revive the estate and the village fortunes.
In Juniper Falls, whilst renovating Black Rock Manor an item goes missing that could result in the demise of the Manor, the estate and the village along with it. Holly agrees to help Mrs Masterly and starts her own investigation into what happened to the missing item.
Holly’s investigation rekindles her friendship with Callum and they soon discover a mysterious young woman living in a bothy near a waterfall, who claims to be some kind of healer. She soon becomes involved with their investigation and Callum is drawn to her, leaving Holly in a state of jealously. Whilst searching for the missing item Callum starts to receive strange straw dolls containing hidden messages and the town suddenly has new people lurking around that are suspects in the theft from the Manor. Will Holly be able to find the missing item, save her friend from the mysterious woman and save the village once again?
Overall, Juniper Falls is an excellent sequel to Black Rock Manor. It continues where the first book left off, with the same loveable characters and the idyllic Northumberland setting and landscape, if not slightly strange village with their superstitions and folklore. It is a fast-paced mystery story with brilliant, believable and well fleshed out main characters with lots of eccentric and slightly bizarre supporting characters that bring the story to life in a relatable way.
Being a mystery story you would expect plot twists and turns along the way and there are plenty of them to keep you going that enhance the narrative rather than being overdone and detracting from the main story.
Holly is no Nancy Drew or Miss Marple and the pairing of Holly and Callum will never be Sherlock Holmes and Watson, but they work extremely well together (with a love interest thrown in) and make the mystery very “cosy” but fun, intriguing and entertaining.
If you are looking for something easy and quick to read, fun and intriguing without any gratuitous violence then Juniper Falls and the Holly Fleet Mystery series are definitely an enjoyable way to spend the cold, rainy days and winter nights. Juniper Falls is a pleasing mystery story that will keep you guessing and entertained.
I can’t wait to see where Holly and Callum go next.
RRP: £9.99 (Paperback) / £1.99 (Kindle)