Is it possible you are perhaps a newcomer to reading British crime fiction and in particular, police procedurals? Just let us start you off on the right path here with THE PROMISED LAND.
It has been a long time between drinks. Author Barry Maitland has always had a dab hand with the police procedural, and it is a relief to once again encounter the sensibilities and stoicism of his stellar creations David Brock and Kathy Kolla. Paired even in retirement, the two continue in THE PROMISED LAND to bring an intensity and realism to the page that consistently makes sense and entertains.
Who doesn’t love a good literary mystery also?
If you’re a bit slow to the party and picked this title up in the last month without having read any of the series priors, fear not. The new reader is fed enough back story to keep up, and the regular reader won’t be encountering any onerous repetition of what they already know. Barry Maitland dropping another Brock and Kolla serves as a timely reminder as to why we read investigation centric crime fiction, with all of its coal face examinations of both the act and the community in which the killer and victim once existed together.
Maitland’s Brock and Kolla series is always one of the first that springs to mind when offering crime fiction recommendations. THE PROMISED LAND delivers another confident dose of elegantly constructed crime writing that is both insightful and challenging to unravel. Tuck yourself in, you’re in good hands.
No Time To Cry, James Oswald
Blindsided by the murder of her boss, Detective Constable Constance Fairchild soon realizes that the Met fully intends to lay the blame entirely on her shoulders rather than come clean about their botched undercover operation. Everything about the shooting of Detective Inspector Pete Copperthwaite shrieks of a cover up, and the Met obviously do not expect their junior officer to offer much resistance to the closing of their ranks against her. How wrong they are.
Constance appears as a fully formed resourceful character with an interesting background and the holder of some firm convictions. No flies on this officer, Con relies on no one but herself and is pleasantly surprised if any of her colleagues in the Met are actually non-biased and useful. Very keen to see how Constance progresses in her career after this book as there will be quite a dramatic change in store for her after the incidents in NO TIME TO CRY.
NO TIME TO CRY is one of those crime novels where you feel you are in very safe hands only a few pages in. Scottish author James Oswald has written here the first entry of a new series, also authors the successful Inspector Maclean series (still ongoing). This experience shows. NO TIME TO CRY is a polished police procedural that nails the ebb and flow of action and introspection, introducing us to the capable DC Constance Fairchild, a police officer in a bind who will dig in deep and not let anyone squash the truth about the murder of her colleague and friend.
The recommendation here is to get on board with what promises to be a cracking new British police procedural series. Shades of ‘woo-woo’, if that’s your thing, can add a fair bit of appeal to a genre that can even in the best hands, can sometimes be a little mechanical. (Let’s face it, it hasn’t hurt John Connolly). There’s a hint of the woo-woo here and as googling tells me, the same goes for the Maclean series (now eight books in, if you feel like going on a binge after enjoying NTTC).
NO TIME TO CRY is a confident series starter that delivers solid entertainment and promises some great series reading to come.
Book Review - Rather be the Devil, Ian Rankin
The death of Maria Turquand had all the ingredients that would have appealed to the salacious public forty years ago; a beautiful woman, gangsters, drugs and rock stars. Not everyone from those glory days has moved on from Edinburgh and it pleases retired detective John Rebus that this is a cold case with connections to the present. Old crimes can still wound. Secrets from the past can forever alter those that are forever tasked with keeping them hidden.
It's quite possible that there will be a few moments during the reading of this novel where you will want to punch the air in pride. Our man Rebus still has the sharpest wit around and eases his way around tricky situations with the practiced air of one who expects little of others but demands much of himself. The acceptance of DI Siobhan Clarke and DI Malcolm Fox that Rebus will always a part of their investigative lives is well and truly established in RATHER BE THE DEVIL; it is both sweet and savvy of them both. The Rebus novels remain fiendishly clever and there's that continuing comfort also in knowing that John Rebus will not twilight out fighting the good fight alone. Having the serving Scotland police force continue to accept the input of an ex detective like Rebus, who always unashamedly operated within his own unique moral code, is supremely satisfying to his long time fans.
RATHER BE THE DEVIL is not quite new light through old windows but by novel's end you are quite refreshed and confident that this series will continue to go from strength to strength, even with the changing of the guard. The world of Rebus is now very insular – need a cop, use Malcolm and Siobhan, need a criminal lord, there’s always big Ger Cafferty etc – but the novels continue to be loaded to the hilt with vicious crimes and complicated agendas. RATHER BE THE DEVIL is a tighter work than a few of its series predecessors in that the series strengths are being employed all at once to produce an absorbing crime novel that would hold its own to a new reader, plus reaffirm the devotion of an existing fan of author Ian Rankin.
BOOK REVIEW - LOVE LIKE BLOOD, Mark Billingham
Whenever suspicion arises in a murder inquiry that it may be the result of an honour killing, the tasked investigators have a dual mission. One, to find out the identity of the murderers, and two, to determine who it was that arranged for the killings to be carried out. The practice of honour killings might still continue, but publicly the communities deny their occurrence.
It's always a joy to visit with Tom Thorne who makes firm decisions according to his own moral code and does not sweat the consequences of his actions. Thorne's personal life, now fourteen novels in, has settled into that of (mostly) peaceful cohabitation with his partner Helen and her son. There is less of Thorne's presence here as he shares the stage with colleague DI Tanner, and Tanner’s personal back story has greater relevance to the events of LOVE LIKE BLOOD. Thorne still shows us that he has firm personal convictions and plenty to say, but it's a more muted Thorne we encounter in this series entry.
LOVE LIKE BLOOD being the first crime novel that this reviewer has read on this type of murder, it has delivered quite an education. It beggars belief that this kind of reasoning behind the killing of family members is still considered acceptable by so many, and this is the frustration that the police convey in the novel. Billingham's author note at conclusion references a real life tragedy that is replicated in this novel, a fictional work. In different hands this novel could have been a much more bitter piece but the contemporary crime with a very old motive is delivered with Billingham's usual confidence and assurance. Whilst not being the most fast paced novel in the series, it is one of the more thoughtful and deliberate works.
BOOK REVIEW: RAGDOLL, DANIEL COLE
After attacking a child killer during his trial at court, Detective William Fawkes, known as Wolf, was publicly shamed and sent to spend time in a mental care facility. Now back on the job in Homicide, Wolf is painfully aware of a few things. First, that he was right all along. The killer he had attacked so savagely was eventually released, committing further atrocities before being recaptured. Second, that there’s a still a lot of people both in the force and out who think that Wolf has proven himself to be an unreliable loose cannon.
RAGDOLL is the debut novel of author Daniel Cole. With a second series entry due out in 2018, this is great news for readers of UK police procedurals. We're emotionally invested pretty soon into the read as RAGDOLL’s strongest inclusion is its large cast of diverse characters. Some decisions made by the police seem a bit questionable as they are marched through very quickly in order to keep momentum, but it's not that much of a pull away from the enjoyment of this read. You expect a bit of plot fluidity in a first novel and without great characters, you are unlikely to bother with book two.
Dark humour is sprinkled throughout RAGDOLL which is a welcome addition to temporarily lighten the mood away from the death and destruction. The characters don't seem to want to perform to our expectations of them and this does work to the advantage of injecting some realism into a novel that has a lot of bodies to deal with plus a fair whack of back story to roll out. Wolf is a complex character who moves through the novel by the seat of his pants, making this more of a personal journey to redemption than at first it might seem. It's fast, it's often funny, there's TV worthy gore, there is realistic emotional drama. RAGDOLL's cast is a welcome addition to the world of crime fiction and eventually we hope, to the small screen also.