A Good Way to Go by Peter Helton

a good way to goThe body in the canal…

😀 😀 😀 😀

DI Liam McLusky has returned to his job after a nine-week suspension, but is under warning from his boss that one step out of line will result in him being fired. But Liam is fundamentally a good cop so, despite the black cloud hanging over him, when a woman’s body is found in the canal he is put in charge of the case. A few days later another body is found, a man this time, and there are elements of the two murders that make Liam suspect they are linked, though he can’t see what the two victims have in common. Then a third man is abducted…

I recently enjoyed Peter’s Helton’s Indelible, a PI novel with a Golden Age feel about the setting, so I was intrigued to see how his style would work in the format of the police procedural. And I’m pleased to say the answer is – very well.

The book gets off to a good start with a nicely scary chapter about a woman sensing an intruder in her flat. It turns out this is part of a sub-plot about a sex-pest who is graduating from stealing underwear from clothesline to more serious offences, and this storyline runs in parallel with the murder mystery. We then meet Liam for the first time, in this book, at least – there have been earlier books, which I haven’t read, but this one works fine as a standalone. At this point Liam is still on suspension, is driving drunk and behaving like a stereotypical maverick, and my heart sank. However, I’m glad to say he improves on acquaintance – once he is back at work he proves to be a good detective and manages to remain sober. And although he has a string of failed relationships behind him, he hasn’t given up all hope of finding the right woman.

The main plot is complex enough to hold the reader’s interest throughout, even if it does require the odd bit of disbelief suspension. I admit I kinda guessed whodunit a good bit before the end, but not why, so it didn’t spoilt the suspense too much. And the sub-plot about the sex-pest is very well done, getting increasingly creepy and chilling as it goes along. Liam and his partner, DS James Austin, work as a good team and their interactions help to make both characters likeable and enjoyable. And oh joy! It’s written in the third person past tense!

Peter Helton
Peter Helton

I like Helton’s writing style. I could complain that the story was a bit over-padded, and I could have lived with fewer descriptions of Liam smoking, drinking coffee, eating chocolate bars etc. But, in contrast, the violence is gritty without being graphic, the dialogue is realistic without the constant use of bad language, there’s some humour that keeps the tone light, and the characterisation is very good throughout, and particularly of Liam himself. It all goes to show what a lottery crime writing is – I’d rate this book well above the average standard of most police procedurals out there, and better than many that have achieved a higher level of success. So if you’re in the market for a new author, here’s one I recommend.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Severn House.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

45 thoughts on “A Good Way to Go by Peter Helton

  1. I used to like P. D. James’s and Ngaio Marsh’s police procedurals. So I like the fact that this book has a “golden age” feel. It’s time I returned to reading mysteries,

    • I really prefer the more traditional style of mystery myself – the usual modern fare of maverick dysfunctional cop, drunkeness, graphic violence and excessive swearing just doesn’t work for me.

  2. So glad to hear, FictionFan, that this isn’t one of those too-often done stories where the maverick cop does whatever s/he wants and can’t get on with anyone at work. Too stereotypical. And I do like the traditional feel of this one. Just from the snippet you’ve shared it seems a solid mystery. May I now blame you for adding to my TBR?? 😉

    • Hehe – I hope so! It must be my turn! I think you might like Helton’s style – solid plotting, good characterisation and just enough of a light touch to keep it entertaining…

  3. You don’t want to hear about him eating chocolate bars? Well! But I agree. Just disgusting! Now, if there were details about his katana…we’d want to hear that.

    Don’t you suppose whoever is on the front of that cover could break that rope easily? Come on, you know you do!

    Now, that is a great ponytail. Notice how I didn’t say whom I was speaking about.

    • But every time he ate one, I wanted one – which is so unfair! He wasn’t Professorial enough to have a katana – more of a wooden stick kind of guy, I think.

      Well, yes – except she was dead (like Chani *chuckles wickedly*) – so it would have been really scary if she’d suddenly broken free and started rampaging. Fun, though…

      *laughs lots* Yes, I’m exceedingly impressed by your tact and subtlety there! Maybe it’s a beard and he’s just put it on back to front.

      • Well, as long as he didn’t have one every five minutes, you should’ve been fine! (You should’ve just had a starburst instead.) Wooden sticks aren’t so bad. It’s like a walking stick.

        Humph noodles to you! Well….she should have done that before she died! Not sensible, I suppose.

        That’s quite possible. But I like to think he could grow a ponytail if he wanted. Not everyone can, you know.

        • But he did! Very mean! (Mmm… I haven’t had a Starburst in ages – I wonder if they’re the same thing in America and Scotland. Sort of juicy chewy things?) Teyla Emmagan and Ronon Dex use sticks to fight with on Stargate Atlantic – very cool.

          Have you got to the bit where Chani…

          This is very true. It takes real talent and years of practice. Perhaps we should send him an award for it…

          • Just think of how many sit-ups you don’t need to do every time you don’t eat one. That should help. (Yes! That’s them. The cherry ones are best.) Now who are they? I think this is a trap.

            I have! She was seriously freaking me out. How selfish.

            And he can hang it on the wall.

            • A very good point! If sit-ups were made compulsory, I’d probably give up chocolate entirely. (Nah! The green ones! Lime?) You’d love them – google images. I’ve been binge-watching Stargate Atlantis over the last couple of weeks – again. It’s nearly as good as Star Trek.

              I know!! But then she always was…

              The ponytail? *nods* But it would restrict his movement somewhat.

            • *laughs* Situps aren’t as bad as pushups. (Wait…there is not a green one!) Now that Ronon chap has quite the hair, doesn’t he?

              Was not! I suppose, you’re right: she should’ve been fine sharing her husband with everyone! You half-feminist you!

              *laughing* True. He might just keep it where it is, then.

            • I agree!! But when I rule the world they’ll both be banned! (Is too!!! I really want some now… wonder if the garage is open (gas station to you, Yankee). Would it be too weird to go on a Starburst hunt at 2 a.m., do you think?) Apparently, the weight of his hair kept giving him whiplash in the action scenes, so he got it all cut off. But then the producers decided the character wouldn’t be the same with short hair, so he had to wear a wig for the rest of the series.

              *gasps and tries not to laugh* I don’t know which half I’m most offended by, sir!! She should just have died earlier and then Paul and Irulan could have… you know… made a baby, and the HLKs wouldn’t have been born. It’s all her fault when you think about it…

            • Banned? That’s not fair at all! I’d rebel. (*laughs* A garage is where one keeps his car! Well, going to the “garage” at 2 am…sounds a bit dangerous to me!) Haha, that’s so funny. It does look like heavy hair, too.

              I like the HLKs! So…if Chani would’ve just died, then…she wouldn’t have had to worry about sharing her husband! *both eyebrows raise in turn* Quite right! I’m an offender, so I offend!

            • OK, I’d make a special law just for you – you can do 100 of each every day! (Nothing’s dangerous in Kirkintilloch – it’s a crime-free zone. Makes the local paper rather dull – “Garden gnome knocked over by freak gust of wind!” or “Traffic chaos as three cars held up while cat crosses road!”) You should grow your hair like that!!

              Tchah! They should be out hunting worms instead of worrying about politics! Exactly! And Irulan would have been a great Empress – I bet she’d have worn pretty frocks and ballgowns, instead of a dowdy stillsuit! *impressed* Can you raise them both equally high? My left goes higher than my right…

            • Now I’m wondering how many laws you’d make! (*laughs* In the case, definitely go to the garage [tonight], and you’ll find not green starburst at all!) Won’t ever do it!!!!!!!!!

              You know, there’s not one likable character right now! I have this feeling that I must bash Herby over the head with his femur, or something. Maybe I’ll just slit his femoral arteries! That’ll fetch him. You know, if I raise them together…they both go high…but, yes, left higher than the right individually.

            • Thousands! Let’s face it, I’d have to fill my time somehow. Six hours of law-making, six of chocolate eating, six of flamenco dancing (gotta burn those calories), and six of sleep. I’d make a law that you have to be the Royal Flamenco Guitarist. (I shall prove you wrong,sir! You wait…)

              *laughs* So vicious! But you should! Even the ones that started out likeable have become horrible. You are a constant inspiration to me, you know, you know… *raises eyebrow*

            • Only six hours of sleep? Don’t you believe in sleeping in? *worries* Flamenco? *laughs a bit* Did you know…there’s a huge rivalry between classical and flamenco guitarists… (You’re still wrong!)

              Yes, that was an awesome post. You know, here’s a fact: I’ve got a Kleenex box on my head right now. I’ll rip it, don’t worry.

            • I do indeed believe in sleeping in! But I also believe in staying up ridiculously late… it’s a problem. Sometimes I can’t remember if I’m getting up or going to bed. *yawns befuddledly* Is there? But they have so much in common. You could do both though – flamenco when I want to dance and some soothing classical for when I’m eating chocolate. And perhaps some blues for when I’m blue. But no jazz.

              *opens notebook, licks pencil and tries not to laugh* Now, tell me, is the box tilting to your right or your left? Which of your ears is higher than the other? I could turn this into a series… I believe you! *worries all the same*

  4. This one sounds pretty interesting. It’s not often one runs across a crime novel that’s not overfilled with bad language — that, in itself, sounds like a prototype for other writers in this genre. Thanks again, FF, for an outstanding review!

  5. A good review of what sounds like a solid mystery – I too enjoy the more old-fashioned feel and gritty without graphic meets my requirements – I may very well take a look at this one 😉

    • Another of the Severn House stable – I think their books ‘fit’ me – they seem to go for the more traditional feel. If you do get a chance to read any of his books, I hope you enjoy – I think I’ll probably backtrack on this series… if I can ever fit them in!

  6. I guess bodies in canals are old-fashioned, eh? Sorry, was conflating two different things wasn’t I? In any case, I’ll have to pass on this particular body. Must go find one in the pile that I started awhile ago and was just reminded that I hadn’t finished. Arg.

    • I hope so, since I live beside a canal! Though I’ll bear that thought in mind should I ever have a …er… disposal problem.

      Somehow or another I seem to be reading five at the same time at the moment – a bit much even for me…

  7. A guy who steals women’s underwear is better than one who cuts out their hearts. Maybe they just need more chocolate? I do like the oldies best, or at least the ones that are patterned after them.

    • Haha! Indeed! Though discovering one has no clean underwear on a workday can be deeply traumatising! So do I – and I like when the book is modern, like this one, but has a more traditional structure.

      • Well, since I work at home with only a small dog and a ginger kittie, I have no fears. Wait; I also have a cockatiel and he sounds the alarm if someone approaches the house so I’m set.

          • He does talk. But his alarm that someone is crossing the perimeter consists of a high–pitched whistle. His name is Mikki, and he tells me he is a pretty Mikki bird. Now it gets strange. He had a friend who spent the summers with us when his people went cool places. That one was Beaker bird. After the first summer Mikki would mix and match their names so that we got “Pretty Mikki bird, pretty beaker bird, pretty pretty mikki beeker and other variations of the two words. He also sings songs that we’ve sung to him. He is around 15 years old and still holding strong.

            • Awww! I always wanted a talking bird ever since I read about Kiki the parrot in the Enid Blyton books. I’d train mine to say ‘pieces of eight! pieces of eight!’ or possibly ‘pieces of chocolate!…’ 😉

            • No – to be honest I’m a bit scared of birds in enclosed spaces, a fear I inherited from my mother. So my wish for one is theoretical only – I don’t think I could ever really live with one. I was friends with a parrot at one point – someone else’s – but when it used to come and sit on my shoulder and nibble at me, it really made me tense up. I blame Hitchcock…

            • Poor Hitchcock. My mom was afraid of birds, too. I just like animals. Doolittle got to me somewhere along the line I guess. Two bears strolled past my housed on Sunday evening in the twilight. A mama and a cub. And I just enjoyed the show. I didn’t go out and take pictures or anything, but they were peaceable. I think I missed my vocation.

            • I like furry animals and generally speaking they like me too. But feathers and scales don’t do so much for me. I wish we had bears…

            • I don’t know. Whatever kind they have in Europe, I guess – brown maybe? It’s being an island – we hunted most of our predatory widlife to extinction centuries ago and then they don’t get replaced naturally because they don’t cross the water. But we’re reintroducing some now – not bears though as far as I know. Wolves and badgers and things…

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