If it hadn’t been for the war, Grace Baxter would never have been able to be a police officer or a detective. But since all the abled bodied men are fighting the Germans, Baxter has a chance to follow in her father’s footsteps. In Ruined Stones, by Eric Reed, we see Baxter begin her career as a constable in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne with a tricky case involving Roman ruins, possible occult shenanigans, and a lot of intersecting motives.
Newcastle is an insular place, even though it’s one of Britain’s largest cities—or so Baxter discovers as she starts to walk her beat near the Bedwell ruins. It might be because she’s a woman doing what everyone considers to be a man’s job, but I doubt that many of the people in this little neighborhood would go blabbing to the police anyway when a woman is discovered in the ruins with her body twisted into the shape of a backwards swastika. Meanwhile, she’s getting little help from her sergeant and some surreptitious training from a copper who’s come out of retirement for the duration. Baxter is mostly on her own, however, and this case gets twistier by the chapter.
Ruined Stones follows a lot of the normal trajectory of a detective novel. More evidence appears. Suspects are ruled out or become more suspicious. But I’ll admit I was stumped for most of the book because no simple solution developed to explain everything. Some readers might be frustrated by how this novel turns out, but I was kind of refreshed by how messy the solution was—even if there were a few too many red herrings. It seemed more realistic to me than some mysteries I’ve read where it turns out to be a criminal mastermind who was playing some demented kind of chess game with the protagonist. Ruined Stones is a chaotic novel that I rather enjoyed once I got used to the Geordie accent that so many of the characters used.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.