The small Cornish village of Porthpella doesn't seem like the setting for a murder enquiry but behind the dunes and holiday cottages something unpleasant is lurking.
Ally Bright is disturbed late one night by a distraught young man knocking on her door. Lewis Pascoe is newly released from prison, and has just discovered that his grandmother's bungalow has been sold to incomers, and his grandmother moved miles away to a nursing home..In his anger and confusion Lewis turns to the only man who might help him - Ally's husband, the retired village policeman - but unfortunately he's died while Lewis has been in prison. Before Ally can decide what to do about the situation, Lewis heads off again into the night.
And next morning he's found at the foot of the cliffs. Alive, but unconscious..
At the same time, an incomer, Helena, goes missing. She and her husband are the couple responsible for buying and knocking down Lewis's grandmother's bungalow. Are the two incidents related? Did Lewis threaten her in some way?
While the police assume Lewis is responsible, and wait for him to regain consciousness, Ally and a new acquaintance - ex-cop Jayden Weston - aren't convinced and decide to investigate themselves.
The Shell House Detectives is Emylia Hall's first foray into the cosy crime genre (although there's a taste of it in her earlier novel A Heart Bent Out of Shape). and the first of a three book series.
Ally and Jayden are an unlikely pairing - a middle-aged widow, and a young man who's left the police because of his partner's death but can't help but be inquisitive. What they have in common is a sense of curiosity and obligation to see things put right.
There are other side issues - a potential love interest for Ally, Jayden's worry of having been too quick to leave the police and relocate to Cornwall plus his impending fatherhood, the inadequacies of the new village policeman - which give a firm backdrop to the central crime investigation.
If you like dark psychological thrillers, then this probably isn't the book for you, but it has a twisty plot, great characters (some more fleshed out than others, but all recognisable individuals), and a lovely Cornish setting. An excellent holiday read.