Inspector Luke Thanet by Dorothy Simpson

My library has the full set of these through book 12 or 13, so I’ve been making my way through them a little at a time, as my holds come up. The first book in the series, The Night She Died, was published in 1980, and checking my GR list, it looks like either I never read that one, or I never logged it. I went back & borrowed it from the Kindle Unlimited library, so I’ll figure out if I read it & forgot to mark it, or if it’s new to me. They are being re-issued by Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller.

It looks like I possibly started with Book 2, though, back in December 2018. I read the third book in 2020, which I reviewed here, and then I picked up with book 4 in March & proceeded to blast through books 4 through 8 in the last two months.

Close Her EyesClose Her Eyes
by Dorothy Simpson
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Inspector Thanet #4
Publication Date: January 1, 1984
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 448
ReRead?: No
Project: a century of crime

A mystery about a missing girl and a secretive church in a small English village from an author known for “character and psychological insight” (The Washington Post).

On a blistering summer weekend, as all of England rushes to the seashore, Det. Inspector Luke Thanet is looking forward to a few days off to putter around his garden and forget the stresses of his job. A famously soft-hearted detective, Thanet takes every crime personally, and he’s overdue for a break. But when a young girl goes missing, it’s all hands on deck. Thanet will move heaven and earth to bring Charity Pritchard home alive. But do her parents even want her found?

Charity’s family belongs to a strict fundamentalist religious order, and they insist that the investigation of her disappearance be left up to God. But when the holy approach fails tragically and Charity is found brutally murdered, Thanet and his partner, the impetuous young Mike Lineham, will tear the church apart to find her killer.

Book 4 was a 3.5 star book for me. I was surprised to see the fundamentalist Christian theme in the book, since I always think of the English as being a fairly irreligious people. This was written 40 years ago, though, so things may have evolved in the last four decades, and, I remind myself that there is really no separation of church and state in the English government. This one was a pretty easy puzzle to figure out – no real twist here.

Last Seen AliveLast Seen Alive
by Dorothy Simpson
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Inspector Thanet #5
Publication Date: January 1, 1985
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 253
ReRead?: No
Project: a century of crime

Winner of the CWA Silver Dagger: A troubled woman returns to her peaceful English village after twenty years—and is murdered within twenty-four hours.

When Det. Inspector Luke Thanet was a young man, Alicia Parnell was one of the most popular girls in Sturrenden: beautiful, charming, and brilliant. But her perfect life was shattered when her teenage boyfriend killed himself. Alicia’s family left town soon after, and Thanet never expected to see her again. But two decades later, Alicia comes home to start her life over in the country village where she was born. No one knows what drew her back, and no one has a chance to ask—because less than a day after her return, Alicia is murdered.

Her body is found in the Black Swan hotel, and all signs point to strangulation. Inspector Thanet is shocked by the death of someone he knew, and to find Alicia’s killer, he’ll have to dig deep into their shared past. Someone in Sturrenden has a secret, and Thanet must uncover it before the killer strikes again.

Also a 3.5 star book – this one did have a twist that I only sort of saw coming. It’s definitely been done before, and it’s not my favorite theme, so that brought my rating down a bit.

One of the things I like about these books, though, is the secondary focus on Luke Thanet’s family life. I was in high school during this time period, so I can relate to his daughter, Bridget’s, experiences as a 1980’s secondary schooler. In addition, Thanet’s wife, Joan, has taken on a job as a probation officer and is back to work, and the conflict between Thanet’s pride – which isn’t crazy about Joan working and spending her time doing things in addition to caring for the home, children and him – and his acknowledgment that she wants the independence and challenge that working brings, is interesting.

I went away to college in 1984, so I largely missed the time period when women didn’t expect to work after getting married, and even after having kids, so their conflicts are like a foreign language to me.

Dead on ArrivalDead on Arrival
by Dorothy Simpson
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Inspector Thanet #6
Publication Date: January 1, 1986
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 259
ReRead?: No

A British detective must find the killer of a much-despised villager in this mystery from “a modern-day version of Agatha Christie” (Booklist).

Det. Inspector Luke Thanet’s stomach clenches up as soon as he hears the phrase “head bashed in.” Even after countless homicides, the mild-mannered country cop has never gotten comfortable with murder, and his latest case is particularly upsetting. The dead man is found in bed, apparently the victim of a single blow with a blunt object. When the corpse is identified as Steven Long, the question is no longer who wanted to kill him, but who didn’t?

A troublemaker with enemies wherever he went, Long was loathed by everyone in town, from his long-suffering ex-wife to the man whose family he killed in a driving accident. To find the culprit, Thanet will have to get to the bottom of a lifetime of hate.

This was actually the first Thanet book that I read. I picked it up off a rack of vintage paperbacks in a UBS that is one of my favorite places to book hunt, on a whim. I had never heard of Dorothy Simpson or this series, but it had a fun, old-fashioned cover, so I decided to give it a go.

This is a really good one, with a great twist at the end.

Element of DoubtElement of Doubt
by Dorothy Simpson
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Inspector Thanet #7
Publication Date: January 1, 1987
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 285
ReRead?: No

There’s no shortage of suspects when a body turns up in a charming English village in this mystery starring mild-mannered Detective Inspector Thanet.

Det. Inspector Luke Thanet is pulling into his driveway, anticipating a long, lazy evening at home, when murder intervenes. A village so lovely it seems straight out of a fairytale, Ribbleden is far from the main roads and Thanet’s usual beat. When the inspector pulls into town, the quiet country streets are deserted: Everyone is crowded outside the manor gates, waiting to learn what happened to Nerine Tarrant.

A notorious woman with a taste for married men, Nerine was found dead on her patio, her neck broken by the fall from the second floor. The wall was too high for an accidental tumble, and a woman with Nerine’s lust for life would never have committed suicide. Many in Ribbleden wanted her dead—but who gave her the final push?

I had a hard time with the victim in this one – and as the truth about her was revealed, I cared less and less than someone had probably tossed her off a balcony. She was loathsome.

There’s also a lot of drama between Luke and Joan and Joan coming home late and the conflict between his job as an investigator and her job as a probation officer that Luke basically needs to get over because he’s being a selfish ass.

Suspicious DeathSuspicious Death
by Dorothy Simpson
Rating: ★★★½
Series: Inspector Thanet #8
Publication Date: January 1, 1988
Genre: crime, mystery
Pages: 292
ReRead?: No

Change is coming to the Sturrenden police station. After twenty years at the helm, the superintendent has retired, and Det. Inspector Luke Thanet is now reporting to a brusque, ambitious upstart recently promoted from Cardiff. A new chief means turf wars and bureaucratic infighting. With the station in chaos, Thanet is almost happy to investigate a suspicious death.

The political side of detective work is what keeps Thanet from seeking promotion. He would rather be risking his neck in the field, and he’s one of the best at his job. When powerful businesswoman Marcia Salden is found dead in the River Sture and the autopsy suggests foul play, Thanet descends on the village of Telford Green, where a tangled web of conspiracy rewarded Marcia’s ambition with murder.

Another loathsome female victim is tossed off of a structure, this time into a river. Do I sense a theme developing here, Dorothy?

This brings me up to date!


  1. This sounds like an interesting series. For some reason when I read I series I don’t read the books one right after the other. I feel the need to put other books in between them. It tends to take me a very long time to get through a series this way and I forget some details along the way. Your post has inspired me to read several from a series in a row.

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