For years now, Catriona McPherson has been making a name for herself with her historical mystery series starring Dandy Gilver.  But recently, readers have become even more fortunate as she has taken the time out of her Dandy schedule to also write a few contemporary thrillers.  The first of those was As She Left It and now Catriona is getting ready for the release of The Day She Died.

The Day She Died is the story of Jessica Constable.  Jessica is a hard-working woman with a simple, but satisfying life.  Her job at the Free Clothing Project in Dumfries takes up most of her time, and Jessie is fine with that.  That is, until the day she meets Gus King.  When Jessie overhears Gus on the phone while in the store, she realizes that he and his wife are having troubles.

Gus admits that his wife has left him. Only wanting to help him out, Jessica offers to get him and his daughter, Ruby, home safely.  The problem is that once she is at the King home, she gets more and more entangled in their affairs.  When the police arrive to tell Gus that his wife has been in an accident – an accident that smacks of suicide – Jessie volunteers to watch over the children while he takes care of legal matters.

Catriona McPherson writes this simple set-up leaving readers wondering where this story is going to go. Revealing any further details would spoil the story for everyone.  Just know that this is a well thought-out and tightly-constructed thriller.  Told over a limited time-period, readers will find themselves extremely invested in the well-being of multiple characters.

One of McPherson’s strongest traits as a novelist is creating characters which readers want to root for.  Jessica Constable is just another in that line.  There will be times when readers will want to bang their heads against the wall saying “why would you do that?,” but every action that Jessie takes is firmly enmeshed In her DNA.  For all her flaws, Jessie is just a woman trying to find her place in the world, wanting to help everyone, and naïvely assuming that everyone views the world in the same innocent way she does.

The Day She Died is a thriller, but I must warn readers that it is not like most thrillers out there.  This is not a speed race to the conclusion, but more of a wandering tale in which the tension is created by the ever increasing sense of trouble over the limited time scope of the novel.  Readers will be eager to continue turning the pages, but not because of the extreme action usually associated with the thriller genre.  Instead, the need to know what is going to happen next is largely due to the reader’s investment in the character’s well-being.

With her contemporary stand-alone novels, Catriona McPherson clearly wants to try new things and experiment with the various forms of crime writing.  She can always return to the more traditional storytelling with books in her Dandy Gilver series, but novels like The Day She Died allow her to demonstrate how there are always new ways to tell familiar stories.  Both readers and the crime fiction genre in general benefit from that commitment.


Disclaimer:  An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher.  No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.

From the Booking Desk:

In case you missed it, enjoy the BOLO Books interview with Catriona McPherson from last year.