Fifteen Coffins by Tony J. Forder #BookReview #BlogTour


From the bestselling author of the DI Bliss series comes an enthralling mystery thriller.
The truth can set you free – or bury you.

When FBI Agent Sydney Merlot returns to her home town in northern California to wind down her late father’s PI business, she soon finds herself on the wrong side of the aftermath of a high school shooting.

Sydney’s childhood friend – who is now county sheriff – plus the local PD, the mayor’s office, and most of the town’s inhabitants, are convinced the horror ended when the gunman was killed. Now they just want to be left alone to mourn. But Sydney has other ideas – and she is not alone.

While having to work through her own personal grief, Sydney is openly intimidated and receives anonymous threats. After discovering she is under surveillance, she begins to fear for her life. During her investigation she gains several allies, but as the days pass, Sydney doesn’t know who to trust, and which new friends might actually turn out to be foes.

I am absolutely thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Fifteen Coffins today. Many thanks to Tony J. Forder and to Sarah Hardy from BOTBS Publicity for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

School shootings in America have shocked the world and polarised opinions for many years but as Tony J. Forder takes pains to point out, Fifteen Coffins isn't about all such tragedies, it's about one fictional event. To be more precise, it's actually about the aftermath of a shooting which saw fifteen young people killed and scores more injured.
Fourteen of those shot dead were the victims of the shooter; the fifteenth, Kevin Muller was unmasked as the gunman after he refused calls to stop and instead reached inside of the holdall he was carrying, consequently drawing the fire of the amassed law-enforcement officers present. The town of Moon Falls is grieving, but one of its inhabitants has to mourn his loss alone and Kevin's father, Dexter is convinced that despite the evidence to the contrary, his son was innocent and was actually the fifteen victim of the real shooter.
His claims have been dismissed by the town's sheriff and so as a last, desperate act, he seeks the help of the local PI and it's here that we meet Sydney Merlot who has returned to her childhood town to wind up her father's affairs following his recent death. He was also called Sidney - although with an 'i' rather than a 'y' - and the resulting confusion leads to an awkward exchange between her and Muller but responding to his obvious distress, she agrees to listen to him even though she has only planned to tie up the remaining loose ends of her father's existing cases.
I quickly knew that Sydney was going to be another of Tony Forder's creations who I would become totally invested in. As I've come to expect from this author, she is such a beautifully described character and as the book progressed, I loved the insights we were given into who she is and what drives her. She is clearly a woman with strong principles whose belief in the importance of justice and the truth means she is prepared to risk friendships and her career to discover what really happened that terrible day. However, she isn't above bending the truth and using her FBI credentials to assist her investigation even after she is explicitly warned not to do so. 
Sydney's own grief perhaps leads her to empathise even more strongly with Dexter Muller, particularly as she too has her doubts about the real story behind the hit-and-run accident which led to her father's untimely death. She is determined to find out what really happened and to discover who killed him but dealing with two such emotive cases is unsurprisingly a heavy burden to bear and I thought that her muddled thinking and understandable paranoia as to who she could really trust reflected her confused emotions perfectly; she needs to honour her father's legacy and to assuage her guilt over her troubled teenage years, and yet her dogged determination to uncover the truth is also a distraction from her grief.
Her return to Moon Falls evokes many memories  - happy and otherwise - of her childhood there but it soon becomes evident that she is in the strange position of being part of the town and its history, yet still an outsider. She understands that in challenging the accepted version of what happened on the day of the shooting, she risks upsetting the community but she also learns just how much things have changed since she lived there and as the novel progresses she finds out that she doesn't know the town perhaps as well as she thought she did. The intricately woven plot twists and turns as the main storyline and the subplots gradually reveal the criminality and corruption that has inflicted the town. As she investigates other possible suspects, the doubts over who may be betraying her lead to a creeping sense of dread and as it becomes clear that she is in real danger, the increasing tension sent my pulse rate soaring.
The rich descriptions of Moon Falls and the surrounding area really bring the place to life; the natural beauty of the landscape is evoked beautifully but beyond that, there is a wealth of historical details of the place, and the recognition of the way in which small town America is changing, together with the authentic flow of the dialogue gives a vivid insight into the town and its inhabitants. As the suspense rises, this first-rate thriller never feels exploitative or becomes an opinion piece about the politics surrounding school shootings yet it does incorporate key issues facing America, including gun control, civil corruption and the rise of often heavily armed survivalist groups.
Fifteen Coffins is a very different book to Tony Forder's DI Bliss series but it still bears all the hallmarks of his exceptional writing. It has a wonderful protagonist in Sydney Merlot, complemented by a superbly rendered cast of supporting characters and a complex plot which is utterly compelling and which is as perceptive as it is surprising. The mystery that lies behind the school shooting is fascinating and I loved the way in which the various elements of the story are drawn together while still leaving some room for a few loose ends which I desperately hope means this isn't the last we hear of Sydney. It's also a moving, empathetic exploration of grief and a poignant reflection of the bittersweet nature of loss. Fifteen Coffins is one of my top reads of this year and whether there is more to come or if it's destined to remain a standalone, I wholeheartedly recommend this enthralling thriller.

Fifteen Coffins can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Tony J Forder is the author of the bestselling DI Bliss crime thriller series. The first seven books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, If Fear Wins, The Reach of Shadows, The Death of Justice, Endless Silent Scream, and Slow Slicing, will be joined in December 2020 by a prequel novella, Bliss Uncovered.
Tony’s other series – two action-adventure novels featuring Mike Lynch – comprises both Scream Blue Murder, and Cold Winter Sun. In addition, Tony has written two standalone novels: a dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, and a suspense thriller set in California, called Fifteen Coffins, released in November 2020.
Tony lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK, and is now a full-time author. He is currently working on Bliss #8, The Autumn Tree.


  1. Thank you so much for your wonderful review and for being part of the blog tour today Karen x


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