*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: A dangerous storm, a wounded stranger, and a ghost from the past. Just another Thursday in Whispering Pines.
A monster of a blizzard is on the way, but the hardy folks of Whispering Pines aren’t bothered by the weather. Not when there are supplies to gather and neighbors to catch up with.
As everyone finally settles in to ride out the storm, Sheriff Jayne O’Shea gets a phone call. A stranger has stumbled into the village. She’s covered in bruises and mumbling about a car crash. Determined to figure out what happened to her, and to rescue any other potential victims still out there, Jayne braves the howling winds and arctic temperatures. Then another call comes in. An elderly villager is missing in the storm.
Jayne can handle this. She can handle pretty much anything. But when a ghost from her past shows up at the bed-and-breakfast and tries to uncover Jayne’s long-buried secrets, she may have reached her breaking point.
I’m pretty sure, without looking back, that I have said this before, but Justified Secrets is my favourite Whispering Pines novel yet!
For those new to the series, the books are individual stand-alone mysteries that follow Sheriff Jayne O’Shea as she settles in the small, isolated town her grandmother helped to found and attempts to put to rest the string of murders and dark secrets that promptly begin bubbling to the surface of the, seemingly placid, pagan community.
This is the ninth book in the series, and while I would always recommend reading a series in order anyway, in this case you would miss out on a load of Jayne’s personal history and backstory if you haven’t.
For fans who are up-to-date, there is a great balance here of past and present, personal and professional, prosaic and paranormal. The mystery is paced just right, and is less of a whodunnit than a what-, why- and how-dunnit, but is full of tension and intrigue nonetheless.
There is a smaller cast of characters than usual, as Whispering Pines is snowed in, and so the main characters and a few core side-characters are trapped at Pine Time, creating a classic atmosphere of claustrophobic suspense, which really keeps you on edge as you read.
Anyone looking for a well-written blend of cosy mystery with hints of the paranormal or occult need look no further than this series. It says a lot that I would move to Whispering Pines in a heartbeat, regardless of the death count to resident ratio!
Her smile attempted to mask her pity, but I saw it there behind her eyes. Any of the villagers who knew what had happened gave me the same look. Every single one of them said, “It wasn’t your fault.” Or, “You couldn’t have known.”
Except it was my job to know. I’d been trained to anticipate, spot, and prevent this exact kind of thing. I just never guessed that… I couldn’t even think his name let alone say it. I never guessed he would bring a gun into my home.
– Shawn McGuire, Justified Secrets
You can find my previous reviews of the Whispering Pines series here: Family Secrets (#1); Kept Secrets (#2); Original Secrets (#3); Hidden Secrets (#4); Rival Secrets (#5); Veiled Secrets (#6); Silent Secrets (#7); Merciful Secrets (#8).