Review: Behind Closed Doors by JJ Marsh

I got a complimentary copy of this book from the author – thank you very much! That fact didn’t influence my opinion in any way of course.


Is there a man whose death you would more than welcome? It might be a director of a pharmaceutical company which peddles  dangerous drugs to pregnant women, an arms dealer who’s made a fortune selling Kalashnikovs to African children-soldiers, a media mogul who’d ruthlessly destroy anybody for a story, a greedy banker who steals pensioners’ money while his own remuneration rises constantly. Maybe the world indeed would be better without those but how willing would you be to play an executioner? And yet some people think they are law unto themselves…

When too many ‘fat cats’ suicides rise a wave of suspicions across Europe, the Interpol creates an experimental unit to look closely into the matter and lead an independent investigation in Switzerland. It is supervised by Beatrice Stubbs from London and includes police officers from different countries. Will they reveal the truth behind the strange ‘suicides’ of people, allegedly, without any conscience? Will they be able to cooperate at all?

What I liked:

I want to warn you: there will be gushing and I am not good at it. Still I have to try – bear with me. I promise to be rather short.

When I started this novel, already the first scene made me intrigued –  a well-prepared woman, dressed up as a maid, first flirts with a businessman then drugs him and slits his wrists while he is sitting in a hot bath, awaiting further pleasure. The reversed roles – a male victim led astray by a female killer-  the skillfully arranged murder, all of it made me wait for more.

Then came the main character, Beatrice Stubbs – a mature Senior Investigator from the Scotland Yard, sent by her superiors to  supervise a group of international detectives who tried to solve a handful of similar murders like the one described at the beginning. From her briefings you find out that there was actually a string of killings and the victims shared similar characteristics: male, unscrupulous, often filthy rich and quite unapologetic about it, conniving and ruthless when it comes to business, constantly chasing skirts in their free time. Fat cats.

I liked Beatrice from the beginning and after a while I loved her sense of humour. Far from being young, thin and pretty, she exuded warmth, common sense and intelligence. What’s more, like a real professional, she didn’t look for a romantic relationship, focusing almost solely on her job and a private fight with her inner demons.

Yes, inner demons…Beatrice, at first glance a successful, modern woman and a police officer, has been suffering from depression and had already one suicide attempt under her belt. Her state of mind, mood swings, uncertainties, her fear of news and extended periods of free time like weekends and holidays was spot-on and described in a brilliant way – take it from another depression victim. Not only her sufferings added a very welcomed original touch to an otherwise well worn-out character of a female investigator, they also made me curious about what had happened to Beatrice, causing her depression. Making your reader curious and waiting for more is one of best things an author could hope and strive to achieve, if not actually the very best. Here Ms Marsh gets full points from me.

What I didn’t like:

After so much praise it would be only natural to mention one or two small shortcomings, right? Here you are: the crime puzzle itself was a bit too simplistic for my taste although it still featured a nice twist concerning the DNA and gender-switching problems. The identity of the main culprit and the brain of the whole operation was so obvious that till the very end I waited for another twist or turn – in vain. Also I found the ending a bit too rushed Finally the cover, although with a nice, quasi impressionistic pic in great colours, doesn’t reflect the contents of the book at all.

Final verdict:

One of more original crime mysteries I happened to find lately – it was a pleasure to read it and I would like to revisit Beatrice and her world very much!

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8 Responses to Review: Behind Closed Doors by JJ Marsh

  1. xaurianx says:

    Not a book I would look at twice based on that cover but I would certainly like to read it. Perhaps because I think: yes, kill those “fat cats”!

  2. heidenkind says:

    High praise indeed! I would never have given this book a second thought either but now I think I’ll try it. 🙂

  3. blodeuedd says:

    Though the cover is SO dull

  4. rameau says:

    I like the premise but I’m not sure I’d like the book. I’ve been struggling with mysteries lately.

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