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Review 🔍 In a Midnight Wood by Ellen Hart

September 9, 2020

Review 🔍 In a Midnight Wood by Ellen Hart

Minnesota private investigator Jane Lawless is headed on a little getaway. She and her best friend, Cordelia Thorn, plan to visit their old friend Emma in her hometown of Castle Lake, while also participating in the small town’s local art festival. Between the festival and an upcoming high school reunion for the class of 1999, no one in Castle Lake is quite sure who will make an appearance.

But back in 1999, Emma’s boyfriend and Castle Lake high school senior Sam Romilly went missing. Everyone thought he ran away, though the town rumor mill has always claimed his father murdered him. Today, within a week of his class’s 20th reunion, Sam’s remains are found in someone else’s burial plot. Suddenly the case is warming up fast. People who knew Sam—friends and enemies alike—will be in town for the much anticipated reunion. It’s up to Jane to sort the innocent from the guilty, before it’s too late.

Release Date: Sep 8, 2020
Series: A Jane Lawless Mystery
Book: 27
Publisher: Macmillan
Imprint: Minotaur Books
Price: $13.99

Jane Lawless
is a former private investigator who now works part-time for a Minneapolis podcast. She is also a restaurateur who is staying with her friends Cordelia and Emma in the small town of Castle Lake for their arts festival. While in town, the body of Emma’s high school boyfriend, Sam Romilly, who had disappeared twenty years ago is discovered buried under someone else’s coffin. Jane decides Sam’s murder would make the perfect topic for her true crime podcast and Emma is on board if it can help bring justice for Sam. However, other prominent residents in the town have worked hard to keep the circumstances of Sam’s death secret and will do what it takes to keep the truth from coming out.

In a Midnight Wood is the latest in a long-running series. It’s the first I’ve read so I appreciate that the author included a list of characters at the beginning of the book. This came in handy keeping track of all of the various people in the story. However, it didn’t help me to connect with the characters. I liked the main character, Jane, the most. She is smart and not afraid to go after the truth. She is grieving the death of her on-again/off-again girlfriend, but hasn’t given up on finding love. However, I found her best friend Cordelia to be annoying and too over-the-top, even for a theater director. Emma plays a large part in the story, but I never felt I got to know what she was really like.

The plot of the book is interesting and as more and more secrets are revealed, the more potential suspects in Sam’s murder are added to Jane’s list. The official investigation is complicated since one of the top suspects is Detective Sergeant Dave Tamborsky, the person leading the investigation. Jane’s sleuthing becomes even more important since she seems to be the only objective person who just wants to find out the truth. I liked the idea of Jane doing research for a podcast, but unfortunately that aspect of the book never came to life. Without any excerpts of the finished product, Jane just seemed like any other amateur sleuth instead of a podcaster. There is also a bit too much political and social commentary in the book for my taste and each instance took me out of the story. There are some interesting parts to the way the story ends, but others are a let down after the build-up given throughout the book. This isn’t a series I am interested in following, but I think fans of the author will like seeing the developments in Jane’s complicated personal life.

~ Christine

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