Wednesday 5 July 2023


Book review: The Shell House Detectives by Emylia Hall [blog tour]

I've hugely enjoyed Emylia Hall's writing ever since I had the opportunity to review her debut novel The Book of Summers back in 2012 (I cannot believe this is over 10 years ago now, where does time go?!). And I love that as my reading preferences have moved away from contemporary women's fiction, so have her stories. The Shell House Detectives is the first book in a new cosy crime series – and immediately after turning the final page, I was already gasping for more. 

Ally Bright lives by herself in a remote cottage on the Cornish coast. Her daughter, who lives in Australia, is pressuring her to move halfway across the world to be closer to her family. After all, what is left for Ally in Cornwall? She's recently widowed and doesn't have any close friends. But all of that changes when a confused young man, ex-offender Lewis Pascoe, knocks on her door one night. He's desperately looking for Ally's husband, Bill, who was a police man and promised to help Lewis when he got out. But as Bill died just over a year ago, she has to disappoint the already distraught young man. 

The encounter leaves Ally startled but she doesn't think there's anything she can do to help. That is, until Lewis is found at the bottom of some cliffs the next morning. Did he jump or was he pushed? While he's in a coma, fighting for his life, Ally teams up with former police man Jayden Weston, who was one of the people who found Lewis. Because when it becomes clear that around the same time of the cliff incident a woman went missing, all fingers point to Lewis. And only Ally and Jayden are willing to believe he's innocent until proven guilty...

Wow, The Shell House Detectives was so incredibly good, it has completely revitalised my joy of reading (as I often go through waves of not really feeling it). I devoured it in just two days, as it was near impossible to put down, only pausing occasionally to check in with a friend to tell her much I was enjoying it. There was even one point where I exclaimed "Whaaaaat?!" out loud as there was a delicious twist that took me by surprise. I was so invested in the story, only discovering the clues and connections at the same pace as Ally and Jayden, that instead of my mind racing ahead and wanting to solve the mystery before the characters, I relished joining in with their investigation. 

And relishing it I did. I immediately loved the quiet yet fierce Ally and her delightful new friend Jayden. He was so clearly struggling emotionally after having lost a friend and leaving the police force as a result, feeling aimless until he met Ally and attached himself to the investigation. They were brought together by fate as they both needed each other. While they were undoubtedly the protagonists, there was also other people in their vicinity that went through beautiful character developments, including holiday-goer Gus, PC Mullins, and Saffron, the owner of a local coffee shop. I loved all of them by the end of it and I do hope we get to see more of them in the future. 

The Shell House Detectives combines an incredibly engaging mystery story with the very best of Emylia's beautifully atmospheric writing, which magically transports readers to the remote Cornish seaside. I do already have a particular soft spot for novels set in Cornwall, as it has such a an evocative landscape, but usually this setting is merely used as a backdrop for the main story. In this book, however, it felt like Cornwall was one of its main characters. It went through many different emotions, from the tranquility of the beaches during off-season to the foaming waves during a heavy storm. 

Emylia Hall is a very accomplished author who already has a diverse list of novels to her name, including A Heart Bent Out of Shape, The Sea Between Us, and The Thousand Lights Hotel. This is her first foray into cosy crime and what a fantastic transition it it. She is a hugely compelling new voice in this increasingly popular genre and I am already desperately wanting more. Thankfully, we don't have to wait too long as the sequel, The Harbour Lights Mystery, is out on 23 October. A Cornwall filled with festivities and murder? Bring it on!

The Shell House Detectives by Emylia Hall is published by Thomas and Mercer and you can buy your own copy now!

Blog tour stops for The Shell House Detectives by Emylia Hall

This review for The Shell House Detectives is a part of the official blog tour for the launch of the book. Make sure to check out the other stops too!

Disclaimer: This book was gifted to me, but this has not impacted this honest review.

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