Title: Blue Murder (detective Janine Lewis Mystery #1)
Author: Cath Staincliffe
First published on 1 November 2004; republished on 13 July 2022 by Joffe Books
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers | Police Procedural
Blue Murder is the first book in Cath Staincliffe’s Detective Janine Lewis Mystery series.
Meet Janine Lewis, a late-thirties, pregnant and single mother whose life has become rather hectic. She was promoted to DCI and decided to celebrate the promotion with her husband Pete – a glass of bubbly would be surprise him. When she returned home that evening, she was surprised, alright. Her husband was in bed with their house help Tina. For the sake of her three children and baby #4 on the way, Janine decided to take Pete back. But he didn’t want to. He walked out of the house, leaving pregnant Janine to juggle between looking after their three kids and her new designation at work.
Janine has ruffled a few feathers by becoming Greater Manchester’s first female DCI. Her boss doesn’t like her and makes sure she knows of his displeasure. At last, Janine has been given her first murder enquiry to head. The body of a local deputy head teacher is found in his allotment – with a slashed stomach and left to die. With a suspect on the run, an elderly dying man and a seven-year-old child as the only available witnesses, Janine knows this won’t be an easy case to crack.
This series was the basis for a popular British Crime TV show. I was so excited to see Joffe Books’ tweet about this book and I was eagerly looking forward to reading it. As soon as it was on KU, I knew I had to borrow it.
Is there a way for me to time travel to the early 2000s when this series was airing on iTV? Or, do you know if it is still streaming on any OTT? I absolutely loved the book and would love to watch its TV adaptation too.
The story begins with a flashback of events that led to Janine catch her husband Pete in bed with Tina. Janine is now six months pregnant and is quite excited when her boss calls her to say he’s making her in charge of a murder case. At Gorton Avenue, allotments off Mauldeth Road West, a man’s body was found by one of the other gardeners. The victim is Mathew Tulley, a deputy head master at a school in Whalley Range. His stomach is slashed and the intestines are spilling out. Who would have wanted to kill this man in such a gruesome manner?
Meanwhile, Dean Hendrix is on the run. He’s done something bad and he doesn’t want to spend years in jail. He leaves a message to his girlfriend Paula and goes to stay with his friend Duggie. Vincent, an eighty-something elderly man is dying of cancer. When the police first knock at his door, he’s too ill to open the door and talk to them. But he’s aware of the murder that happened near his house. A young child of seven, Jade, also witnessed something. Her mam had warned her about going to the backyard or the allotment as it wasn’t safe. But Jade ventured out when her mam wasn’t at home, only to witness something bad.
Three side-stories, one connection. Three suspects, one murder. The victim’s wife has been acting a tad strange. She burned all the vacation videos she and her late husband filmed. When questioned, she says she loved him too much and those videos only bring back memories of the times she will never have again. What’s going on with Dean though? We readers aren’t given a clue as to why Dean is on the run – a subtle hint or two which makes us (and the police) suspect him of crime.
As the police start to investigate and dig deeper into the victim’s life, there is evidence suggesting he was no saint. Then comes a shocking twist – something to do with his past that not many were aware of.
Coming to Janine’s juggle between personal and professional life, the poor thing has a hard time. Her older son was a victim of a mugging incident while her youngest son is sniffling. Janine worries if Tom (youngest son) might get another asthma attack.
The case takes priority over her children. She cannot help it – she has three mouths (and soon four) to feed. Her former partner Richard Mayne is back. Janine and Richard had a chemistry – they never pursued their relationship further than colleagues/friends and Janine ended up marrying Pete. Richard coming back and making goo-goo eyes at her makes Janine wonder if she will get another chance at love.
I felt sad for Janine – struggling between three kids (one is a teenager) and job is never easy. Baby #4 on the way does not make it easier either. The murder case kept me guessing till the end. All three suspects had means, opportunity and motive to kill Mathew. While one had a grudge, the other was absconding – making the police curious about his sudden disappearance. The victim’s wife’s behavior was weird – making the police suspect her role in the murder, if any that is.
I absolutely loved the storytelling. Cath Staincliffe has made it to my list of favorite authors and Janine Lewis series is my new favorite police procedural series. The mystery is excellent and the suspense keeps one on the edge of their seat. No wonder this book was made into a TV series – a completely gripping and suspenseful entertainment package! I could not identify the killer before Janine. Their identity and the reason for murder was a huge shocker.
If you are looking for a gripping police procedural with a shocking twist, I recommend you to give Blue Murder by Cath Staincliffe a try.