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A young woman is found brutally murdered in her cottage, and her female neighbour is later found dead at the bottom of the local quarry, having apparently driven her car over the edge. The coincidence of two deaths happening at the same time in a small village lead the police to think they may be linked, so newly promoted Louisa Smith finds her first case as DCI leading the Major Crime team head is to investigate both. She soon discovers that the murder victim Polly has been the cause of jealousy in more than one relationship around the village, and that she also had links to local gangster Nigel Maitland, on whom the police have never been able to get enough evidence to charge with anything…
This is probably the most ‘procedural’ police procedural I’ve read. Haynes, who apparently was a police intelligence analyst for several years in real life, gives a very detailed and convincing picture of how a police investigation works. She includes copies of reports, departmental e-mails and other case documents as a method of providing a feeling of verisimilitude to her story. On the whole this works well – Haynes keeps it down to a level where it remains interesting. However, she also includes fairly in-depth descriptions of team meetings and briefings, and while these make the investigation feel very realistic they also slow the plot down a little too much. The picture that most investigations are probably 90% routine tedium is, I’m sure, more accurate than the usual action-fest, but perhaps the book veers a little too much towards authenticity at the expense of entertainment on occasion.
The plot is complex and interesting, if a bit patchy at times – the obvious gets overlooked or we revert back to something that has already been considered earlier and dismissed. There are a couple of fairly lengthy episodes of S&M sex but, while the detail is considerably more graphic than necessary, they are integral to the plot. Some of the characterisation is excellent, particularly of the police officers, while in other cases it can be a bit superficial and less credible, and occasionally Haynes changes a character’s personality midway through to fit in with a twist in the plot. DCI Smith herself is an appealing detective – ambitious and hard-working and without the usual angst issues. She has a fairly strong moral code which she tries hard to live up to and is a conscientious boss, loyal to her colleagues.
Overall, I found this a good read – not perfect, but with some good writing and original touches that lifted it well above average. I don’t know whether Haynes intends to make this into a series, but I’d be happy to meet Louisa Smith and her colleagues again. Recommended.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group UK.