The Companion

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Pub Date 09 Jun 2022 | Archive Date 09 Jun 2022
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In a grand old mansion in the middle of the Sussex countryside, seven people have seen more than they should... The new chilling thriller from Lesley Thomson.

James Ritchie was looking forward to a boys' day out with his son, Wilbur – even if he was a little late picking him up from the home of his ex-wife, Anna. Annoyed by his late arrival, and competing for their son's attention, Anna leaves the two of them to their day with the promise of a roast dinner when Wilbur returns.

But Anna will never see her family again. That afternoon, James and Wilbur are found dead, the victims of a double stabbing on the beach.

DI Toni Kemp, of Sussex police, must unravel a case which has shocked the county to its core. What she discovers will lead her to Blacklock House, a grand country mansion, long ago converted into flats. Here in the middle of nowhere, where a peacock struts the lawn, and a fountain plays intermittently, seven long-term residents have seen more than they should.

But this is a community who are good at keeping secrets...

'Like the best of Barbara Vine and Agatha Christie crossed with the unique Lesley Thomson brilliance.' Elly Griffiths
'This modern take on the country-house mystery shocks from the off.' The Times
'Colourful characters and devious plotting.' Ian Rankin
'Electrifying, gritty.' Woman's Own

In a grand old mansion in the middle of the Sussex countryside, seven people have seen more than they should... The new chilling thriller from Lesley Thomson.

James Ritchie was looking forward to a...

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ISBN 9781801109260
PRICE £18.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

A man and his young son are the victims of a grisly double stabbing while out flying a kite on the beach. There appears to be no motive for their deaths, making it very hard for DI Toni Kemp and her Sussex police team to track down the perpetrator.

When another unsuspecting family become the next victims of the serial killer, found dead after a picnic on Deadman's Heath, DI Kemp's attention is drawn to Blacklock House, a former grand mansion that has been converted into flats. Now housing a small group of residents who seem to have plenty to hide, including the slightly peculiar twenty-five-year old Timothy Mew who has just taken on the job of companion to retired QC Rex Lomax.

Can DI Kemp get to the bottom of this perplexing case before the murderer strikes again?

The Companion is a literary crime thriller that begins with a shocking double murder and evolves into a left-of-field country house mystery, with all the sinister vibes you could possibly want.

The story starts with a grisly bang, and explodes into a number of intermingled threads around the lives of various local characters, gradually spreading to include the eccentric gaggle of residents at the creepy Blacklock House. There are essentially two sides to the tale, splitting between the personal relationships of the characters and the murder plot at hand, which are connected through a bevy of subplots.

A lot of characters come at you very quickly, and I did find it tricky to navigate through them at first, as there are so many aspects of their personal stories that link everything together. However, you soon get into the rhythm of where Lesley Thomson is going with this, and get a handle on how they all fit into the intricately wrought plotlines that need to be hammered out before the truth becomes clear, and it provides her with a wealth of red herrings to mix things up nicely.

What really draws you in is Blacklock House itself and the odd collection of residents that live there, ranging from the endearingly batty to the out-and-out menacing, and I can see that Thomson has had a field day coming up with all their perverse traits. Their encounters spill out into tense, and often blistering, verbal encounters that are darkly entertaining to read. If ever there was a cast of suspicious characters under one eerie roof then this lot fit the bill perfectly - and they definitely keep you guessing about their involvement in the macabre goings on in the neighbourhood.

My favourite character in this book was Freddy, and I loved her friendship with DI Kemp, who has some very quirky traits of her own it seems. I really enjoyed how Freddy ties many threads of the story together, and some of the most humorous parts of the book stem from her role in the tale - the heart warming ones too.

I think it's fair to say that this is a book that you need to give your full attention to, but if you fancy a cleverly conceived crime story that combines a touch of Elly Griffiths by way of a literary Knives Out, then this is an intriguing choice for your reading pile. It has some interesting observations on loneliness to ponder too.

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Another fantastic novel from Lesley Thomson – whose writing just keeps getting better and better!

When James Ritchie took his son, Wilbur, out for the day he expected to have fun flying a kite; he didn’t think they would be the latest murder victims. DI Toni Kemp and her team have the task of finding out what happened and why. Everything seems to lead to Blacklock House, a grand country mansion converted into flats with seven residents, none of whom seem to be very forthcoming. When the bodies start mounting up, DI Kemp has her work cut out for her.

The one thing guaranteed with this author’s novels is that they are never cut and dried. She creates the most amazing characters, wraps them up with fabulous dialogue into a seemingly unfathomable tale and thoroughly bamboozles her readers! There is a wonderful cast of characters in The Companion; I began by taking them all at face value and ended up trusting none of them. I would have said I suspected everyone at some point or another but, when I reconsidered, I realised that I never actually suspected the guilty of having ‘done the deed’! Skilfully crafted, beautifully written and another of this author’s novels which I am delighted to highly recommend and, of course, give all five sparkling stars.

My thanks to the publisher for my copy and to Sophie Ransom for my spot on this tour which I’m delighted to help kick-off today; this is – as always – my honest, original and unbiased review.

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i'm a fan of Golden Age mysteries and this one pays homage to those whodunit in a clever way.
It's a compelling, gripping, and highly entertaining mystery that kept me hooked. I loved the well crafted plot and the solid mystery.
I can't wait to read another book featuring these characters
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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James Ritchie thought of himself as a punctual man who was inexplicably never on time and he was - as usual - late to pick up his son, Wilbur, for their 'boys' day out'. These were always days which appealed more to James than to Wilbur and, competing for the boy's attention, his mother, Anna, promised him a roast dinner when he returned. The dinner would never be served, as James and Wilbur are the victims of a double stabbing on the beach. The case falls to DI Toni Kemp of Sussex police. She's feeling the pressure. You can always tell - she shoplifts Snickers Bars when the going gets tough.

All the clues lead to Blacklock House, a rather grand mansion in the Sussex countryside which has been converted into seven apartments. There are eight residents plus a peacock which struts about the lawn - and the more you hear about the residents, the more you think that the peacock could well be the best of them. Timothy Mew (who likes to pretend that he's an aristocrat) has moved in as a companion to former barrister, Rex Lomax who has been lonely since the death of his wife in a car accident. Garry Haslam seems to know everyone's secrets - and makes use of them. Lady Dorothy Erskine (generally known as Bunty) is from the family who owned the house and she lives in a grace-and-favour flat. She is perennially short of money.

Martyn and Sylvia Burnett are retired doctors: rumour has it that Sylvia is still prescribing for her husband who is addicted to pain killers. Patrick Bell is unpleasant and obsessive in his pursuit of Martha Merry, a local hairdresser and you constantly wonder just how far he'll be prepared to go. Finally, there's Barbara Major, a researcher for a 'well-known crime writer', whose relentless observing of people comes perillously close to stalking. You might warm to Rex Lomax but there's none of the rest you'd want to spend time with. The characterisation is superb - even very minor characters stay in your mind. It's not just the residents of Blacklock House, either: it's the local community and the police who are investigating the cases. You'll feel that you really know these people.

The best part, though - is the plot. It is superb. I had just about everybody inked in as the serial killer but I still didn't get it right despite all the clues being there. It's a book to read once to find out who did it - and then to read again in a few months, to find out how the author did it. It's a real cracker of a book which I read far too quickly and I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

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The Companion - Lesley Thomson

James Ritchie was looking forward to a boys' day out with his son, Wilbur picking him up late from his ex-wife Anna, she leaves the two of them to their day. But Anna will never see her family again. That afternoon, James and Wilbur are found dead, the victims of a double stabbing on the beach.
DI Toni Kemp, must unravel a case which has shocked the county to its core. What she discovers will lead her to Blacklock House, a grand country mansion, long ago converted into flats. Here in the middle of nowhere, where a peacock struts the lawn, and a fountain plays intermittently, seven long-term residents have seen more than they should.
But this is a community who are good at keeping secrets...

Well, this one was a slow burn and then at times caught fire for me. I loved the police procedural elements, the murders themselves and their investigation. It felt quite real with the investigation going one step forward, then two steps back. The people living in Blacklock House I found difficult to engage with, except Rex, but that is the point. I didn’t trust them, didn’t particularly like them and slowly, slowly, suspicions build and tension rises.

As more murders occur, we are fed little breadcrumbs pointing this way and that, I felt like I was blundering about, somewhat like DI Kemp in fact. Although towards the end I had decided ‘whodunnit’, I enjoyed reading the threads of the story move towards each other until all the elements combined in a satisfying conclusion.


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This is the second installment in Lesley Thomson's new series set around Newhaven. I didn't read the first installment but this didn't detract at all from this novel, which can be read on its own. I enjoyed the settings around Sussex and the main characters. I particularly enjoyed the depictions of the grand but fading country house, with self-contained apartments let out to tenants, and found the inhabitants entertaining. I look forward to the next book in the series.

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The Companion by Lesley Thomson

I was really pleased to read this book by Lesley Thomson, especially when I realised she was revisiting Newhaven, and the characters from Death of a Mermaid.
The Companion in question is Timothy Mew a young man with delusions of grandeur, who comes to be a companion to a retired barrister. The barrister, Rex, lives in a country house that has been converted into apartments, containing an interesting mix of people.
At this time, a serial killer is on the loose, attacking families, and detective Toni Kemp is investigating the case. One of the attacks takes place on the woods behind the house.
With a slight Agatha Christie-esque feel, the country house, the many suspects/victims, Freddie the fish delivery lady, Martha the hairdresser, this book is still very modern and intriguing, and full of great characters.
Lots of red herrings, and I certainly didn’t guess the ending!
I look forward to reading more about Toni and Freddie.

(There were a few continuity errors which need ironing out, some confusion with names, but more importantly, the layout of the country house, where was Barbara Major’s apartment?)

Thanks to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for the opportunity to read this book.

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When Timothy becomes a companion for Rex, little does he know how his life is about to take a dramatic turn when a local family is murdered the same day as he moves in.

The Companion follows the story from each of the characters point of view, changing character for each chapter. As there was Toni the police officer, her friend Freddy, who is also the fish monger, Tim, Rex, the other residents of the flats, and Martha the hairdresser and Tim's friend, it did get a little confusing at first.

I found the book difficult to get into at first, due to all the head hopping, but perseverance paid off and eventually I really enjoyed it. It wasn't really believable but this is what made it so enjoyable. The characters were all well described and each one was very different. You are kept guessing throughout until the surprising twist at the end.

Overall a good read

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If you love a good old fashioned English murder mystery, then you need to pick up The Companion by Lesley Thomson. This is the first novel by Lesley that I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s a real sense of mystery and I loved how Lesley put the spotlight on various characters, I was never able to guess who the killer was.

The novel opens with a shocking murder when a family are murdered during a day out as well as a father and son. This creates a sinister tone right from the beginning as DI Toni Kemp and his team grapple with the case and attempt to bring the perpetrator to justice before they kill again. What would give anyone a reason to want to kill these people? The crimes are so shocking, and I could see just how terrifying it was for the residents, fearing that at any moment the killer could strike again. I was rooting for the police to catch the killer.

The novel shifts its focus to an old manor house, converted into apartments. It is also the home of Rex, who is seventy years of age. Rex has just employed Timothy Mew, who is twenty-five years old to be a live in companion, following the death of Rex’s wife five years earlier. It is around the time that Timothy arrives that the murders start. The manor house falls under the spotlight of the police’s investigation, and it is clear to see that there are more than a few strange happenings going on in the former mansion. This adds to the chilling atmosphere of the novel, and I could feel danger lurking around every corner.

I liked how Lesley Thomson kept me guessing about her characters and I liked trying to work out what their real motives are. Is it too much of a coincidence that Timothy arrived at around the same time the murders take place? The character’s individual personalities come through so well on the page, really making you think about them. There are so many mysteries surrounding them which kept me utterly gripped as I was reading. I think this would make an excellent television drama.

The Companion is a highly addictive read and I was drawn into the mystery from the first page. I thought this was a highly entertaining read. It’s the type of book that you can lose an afternoon to. I really enjoyed it. The Companion is the perfect murder mystery novel.

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After reading "Death of a Mermaid" two years ago, I was delighted to have the opportunity to revisit some of the characters from that novel. The setting is a seaside town in Sussex called Newhaven. Blacklock House was very well described and I could imagine the atmosphere it would have evoked.

Despite its charming facade, Blacklock House is not a place I would like to live. The neighbors were an eclectic group ranging from the desperate to the odious. The only one I rather liked was Rex Lomax and I wondered why he didn't get rid of the new companion after week one. The companion, 33 year old Timothy Mew was a self-important, unscrupulous, snob, with absolutely no basis to be so. It is clear that the only reason he applied for the job of companion was so that he could reside at a stately home - where he felt he belonged.

I found this book to be rather character heavy. It took me some time to discern all the various residents of Blacklock House. I would have preferred that more emphasis be placed on Freddie, and on the police investigation led by Toni Kemp.

This book had an Agatha Christie type vibe and felt a tad contrived. The mystery element of the book was well plotted and it had me guessing 'whodunit' until the end. And yes, I was surprised.

With themes of loneliness, status seeking, extortion, and duplicitous behavior, this novel has a lot to offer the reader.

3.5 stars rounded up

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This is the first book I’ve read by the author and I’d heard great things about it so was thrilled to be part of the tour.

If you know me, you know I love a good whodunit and the promise of one centred around the residents of an old country house, Blacklock, was very intriguing!

I instantly fell in love with Lesley’s no-nonsense and witty dialogue. The character of DI Toni Kemp has been brilliantly crafted and, for me, really anchored the novel with her observations and manner of expressions.

Add to this the unpleasant and dastardly characters residing in Blacklock and a wickedly clever plot, you have a very entertaining and compelling murder mystery.

I loved everything about this book. A definite nod to one of my favourite authors, Agatha Christie, and hints of the brilliant Knives Out movie. I could have continued reading this for another 364 pages!

I’d love to read a sequel as I was so intrigued by Blacklock House!

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