cover image Daughters of Darkness

Daughters of Darkness

Sally Spencer. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8949-2

A baffling cold case preoccupies Jennie Redhead, “Oxford’s only redheaded private investigator with an Upper Second in English Literature,” in Spencer’s superior third mystery set in 1970s Oxford, England (after 2018’s Dry Bones). Julia Pemberton, a physics professor with powerful government connections, wants Redhead to solve the murder three years earlier of Pemberton’s mother, Grace Stockton, a renowned anthropologist. The victim’s decapitated corpse was found in the woods near the home she shared with her husband, an Oxford academic, who was in the U.S. when she died. The police focused their inquiries on an unknown woman who had asked for directions to the Stockton home around the time of the crime, but despite her having been caught on camera at the nearby rail station, the suspect eluded detection. Redhead’s diligent sleuthing leads to a satisfying, if downbeat solution. Refreshingly, Spencer doesn’t make Redhead, who’s capable of snark and petty malice, wholly likable. Readers will look forward to the further adventures of this distinctive lead. (July)