Skull Days


The fifth case for DI Ambrose. A young woman is missing from a nearby girls school and the team, including WPC Meadows, begin their search.

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PJ Quinn is the pen name for mother and daughter team, Pauline Kirk and Jo Summers.
Pauline is a novelist and poet. Jo is a lawyer who writes text-books for the legal press. Jo challenged her mother to write a crime novel and, somehow, ended up writing it with her. The result is a series of detective novels featuring DI Ambrose and Chalk Heath, set in the 1950s, a period of great change that seems like an era ago.

Newly promoted to Detective Chief Inspector, Ambrose leads a serious crime team, with officers including reader’s favourites, DI Winters, WPC Meadows, PC Sutton, and PC Green, a rookie from London, learning country policing.

When a girl goes missing from an expensive boarding school and a teacher drowns in mysterious circumstances, a chain of events develops that stretches Ambrose and his team to its limits.

Skull Days is the fifth novel in the series, after Foul Play, Poison Pen, Close Disharmony and Poetic Justice.

If you would like to buy the whole series to be ready for the new mystery you can buy the DI Ambrose Bundle at a discount.




The fifth in P J Quinn’s series of detective novels revolving around DCI Ambrose and his team is a worthy addition to the series. It has continued merits too easy to take for granted: lucid, unobtrusive narrative momentum; precise, but never overloaded, setting of the scene (one always looks forward to the convincing police sketch maps); an acute sense of social change as the series  reaches 1960; care taken that the most minor characters are never stereotypes.

But in any detective novel the key elements are ingenuity of plotting and realistic characterization of the detectives. On the first aspect, Skull Days rates highly. As in previous novels in the series, it weaves a complex crime mystery around the internal dynamics of a ‘closed community’ — in this case an exclusive girls’ school. This time, though, the authors convincingly cast their geographical and historical net wider than in the past. And the mystery itself? Well, suffice to say that Skull Days  wrong-footed this reader from the start, though, as always with P J Quinn, my final response was ‘Fair cop, guv’.

Equally important are P J Quinn’s carefully-differentiated characterizations of the police. We are now used to fictional detectives having ‘difficult home lives’ sketched in, rather than their being  extraordinary loners. But in Skull Days we really feel the day-to-day demands of marriage, family and money (or, equally, their absence) pressing in on the investigators. Without points being laboured, we get a particularly acute sense of women’s lives and men’s attitudes in the period.

However, lovers of a good mystery need not fear being detained by ‘messages’. . Skull Days is a rattling good read, guaranteed to make the reader cheerfully self-irritated: ‘Where did I go wrong?’ If only I hadn’t assumed that…’