#You Too by Candy Denman – a contemporary mystery with realistic roots

#You Too by Candy Denman 


A Jocasta Hughes mystery is always well worth a read, and this third in the series is an excellent, if slightly lighter in tone. Despite being in a series, this book can easily be read as a standalone crime novel. Yes, there are unexplained deaths, some in very unsavoury circumstances, but Jo herself is revelling in her life between being a G.P.  and on call doctor to the local police station. In this novel she has to deal with some patients that are challenging in her main job, and realises that she sometimes stretches herself a little thinly, but it is her drive to discover the truth that means that she will not let some mysteries rest. Jo has to deal with the pressure of a mother who

is hoping she will find a husband, but she accepts that some relationships have more potential than others. The element of perfectly normal behaviour makes this a fascinating novel, as Jo drinks a little too much with her friend Kate, she eats easy to cook food, and she is sometimes aware that others are not really pulling their weight. There are some difficult scenes near the beginning, but it soon relaxes into the territory of finding out who is inflicting such embarrassing circumstances on certain people and why. This is not a standard police procedural, but there are lots of carefully researched elements of realistic situations where the police must act in certain ways to satisfy the law and financial restrictions. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.


The book begins with Jo being called to the scene of a death which has apparently occurred as a result of a sexual practice. While the reactions vary from the strictly factual to the crude, there seems to be a lot of publicity very quickly. Jo as an experienced forensic practitioner is not satisfied that the death is accidental or a complicated suicide, and quickly begins to see links with another embarrasing discovery. Other strange events occur, but Jo’s detective work must run alongside her work as a G.P, especially as certain patients prove demanding. Can Jo avoid professional mishaps while making sure that there are no more victims of the person who seems to have their own agenda?


I found this a really gripping read, yet the setting and the very real character of Jo and her friends and colleagues mean that it did not proceed at a breakneck thriller speed. This is a well researched book with some depth, and manages to hit some contemporary points as well as being simply a good read. Gender issues, the problems of publicity and the nature of crime fit neatly alongside the problems of strange dogs, self medication and everyday life in Hastings. Jo is certainly an engaging character, whose persistence and quick wits solves several situations. This is a series of books which is definitely worth discovering, especially as each novel is really good. I recommend this as a particularly timely read with lots of interesting issues.      

Dead Pretty by Candy Denman – a powerful story of crime, medicine and tension

A doctor’s life can be challenging, and this woman faces more challenges than most. For fans of forensic crime investigations, this is a novel which vibrates with the grimness of daily life and the fear of sudden death in a community where the police and medical professionals mainly represented by Dr. Jocasta Hughes make some difficult discoveries. This is a book about a woman who finds the limitations of her ability to cope with the unbearable lives of some of those around her, and meets them with her thoughtful contributions and personal optimism. Hastings is a town of contrast in this novel which is very much of the present day, where the well off move in different circles from those who live on the edge of the law of poverty, crime and fear. The realism of this novel can be sometimes overwhelming, as women who are without hope suffer and even die, and a killer lurks in the shadows. This is a fascinating book, and I was grateful to receive a copy to read and review.

Dr Jo, or Jocasta, Hughes, is a young woman who works as a part time G.P. in a mixed practice where the patients reflect the variety of many urban communities. She is an extremely able doctor, though lives a somewhat lonely single life. She also works as a police surgeon, and as such is called into the police station to deal with those who turn up there with a variety of back stories. Her most challenging role is to arrive first on the scene when a body is discovered, and assess the death for suspicious circumstances. She does not perform all the forensic procedures and unlike television pathologists she does not officially become involved in the detection of crime, despite the fact that she continually encounters the same police officers who she clinically observes. As sudden death seems to be a pattern among young women, especially prostitutes, she begins to fear that the squalid deaths show planning, but finds it difficult to persuade the police that she has possibly gained more understanding of the desperate women who are seemingly being targeted.  She continues with her life of seeking a real relationship, sorting out her domestic life, and spending time with her outrageous friend Kate while coping with her complicated parents.

This is a grim book which spares no details of violent death and the squalid vulnerable nature of some women’s lives. The character of Jo transforms this novel into a very readable book, infusing it with movement and purpose, some humour and style. She has the same hesitations and concerns as many women, and the gritty nature of her work is in contrast with a lifestyle of financial security. It is not a depressing book, but there is a sense of risk or even danger as Jo carefully pushes to find out what is truly going on in this town as she encounters so many people. Denman is an extremely capable writer, constructing a plot full of tension while keeping a consistent view of people in all their variety. I found it a powerful view of contemporary life, vibrant and realistic, a strong novel full of promise.



Today I have been working on my M.A. dissertation proposal for a tutorial tomorrow. I can never decide if fifteen thousand words sound daunting because it is so much to produce, or a bit of a limitation on a huge subject. I am probably going to focus on some of the heritage sites associated with famous writers; on Friday we got to the Charles Dickens Museum in London. The volunteers were tremendously welcoming, especially as we coped with a temperamental lift which eventually allowed me to see most of this fascinating house. I would recommend a visit if you are in London.