With Our Blessing by Jo Spain

I’m just back from a week’s holiday in France and had a lovely time exploring the local area with my family. Incidentally, if anyone is ever in the Vendee region you absolutely must go to Puy du Fou theme park. It doesn’t have any rides, which suits me fine, but has lots of shows based around history. It’s absolutely amazing and the whole family agreed it was the best day of the holiday. But back to the books. I had time to read quite a few while I was away so have a lot of reviews to catch up on. I’m beginning today with one I finished just before we went away.

With Our Blessing begins with very dramatic scenes. In 1975, a young woman has her baby taken away from her by nuns as soon as it is born. In 2010, someone is lying in wait to carry out a revenge attack that has been a long time in the planning. The body of an elderly woman is found in a park in Dublin and she has been brutally murdered. Detective Inspector Tom Reynolds is investigating the case and it soon leads to a convent in the countryside. As the investigation proceeds, it is clear that the murder may be connected to the convent’s former incarnation as a Magdalene Laundry and other secrets long hidden.

It was sad reading about the dark history of Ireland’s not too distant past. It is well known now the kind of abuse that went on in some of the Magdalene Laundries, with the girls badly treated and being forced to give up their babies. This is what lies at the heart of With Our Blessing. The lasting effects on the girls carried on into their families and it was interesting to read that the author’s own father was adopted perhaps under similar circumstances. What happened in the Laundries haunts people right up to the present day.

Jo Spain has created a great police team and I found Tom Reynolds a very likeable character. There were parallels between his life and what he was uncovering about the past and in fact a few of the team were affected personally by the story. The different characters of the team worked well together and Jo Spain also showed how their home lives affected the kind of person they were at work too. She has cleverly written her story to cast suspicion on many of the characters as you read so that, as usual, I had no idea who the murderer was until it was revealed. It’s a fast paced thriller with lots of secrets and surprises along the way. Although quite a big book at over 500 pages, I was so caught up with the story that I barely noticed the pages flying by.

This was a thought-provoking thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed although it did make me feel sad as well. I’m really looking forward to meeting up with Tom Reynolds and the rest of his team when the second book in the series, Beneath the Surface, is released in September.

My thanks to the publishers Quercus for sending me a copy of the book to review. With Our Blessing was published in paperback on 2nd June 2016 and you can order a copy here: With Our Blessing

From the back of the book

It’s true what they say . . . revenge is sweet. 1975. A baby, minutes old, is forcibly taken from its devastated mother. 2010. The body of an elderly woman is found in a Dublin public park in the depths of winter.

Detective Inspector Tom Reynolds is working the case. He’s convinced the murder is linked to historical events that took place in the notorious Magdalene Laundries. Reynolds and his team follow the trail to an isolated convent in the Irish countryside. But once inside, it becomes disturbingly clear that the killer is amongst them . . . and is determined to exact further vengeance for the sins of the past.

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