😀 😀 😀 😀
Three young men take off to Uganda for one last adventure holiday before they put their student days behind them and venture into the world of work. But Uganda is in the grip of civil unrest, with gangs of rebel soldiers, many of them children, making the country a dangerous place for Ugandans and visitors alike. Jack, Ben and David are horrified by some of the things they see and, when they get lost and are stopped at a rebel roadblock, they realise they’re in serious trouble.
Years later in the present, Jack Carrigan is a detective in the Met, tasked to investigate a horrific murder of a Ugandan student living in London. Still haunted by his own experiences in Uganda, Carrigan is reluctant to consider a possible political motive and tries to convince himself this is a straightforward sex crime. But his new partner, Geneva Miller, isn’t so sure – the girl had been researching one of the worst of the rebel groups and there are features of the murder that make Miller think there’s a connection.
Anyone who reads my reviews will know that I am excessively tired of current trends and clichés in modern crime novels, so let’s speed quickly by them. Carrigan is typically angst-ridden – in fact, so is Miller, to a lesser degree. Miller drinks too much. Each detective has a quirk – Carrigan, a coffee addiction with every cup described; and Miller, a rash brought on by stress, and this is kind of a stressful case, so she scratches. Constantly. (However, I’ve actually previously read Eleven Days, the second in the series, in which Carrigan seems to have got his coffee addiction under control and someone must have told Miller about antihistamines, so it’s good to know that these annoying traits disappear.) The book is unnecessarily gory – the murder methods are brutal and sickening in the extreme and told in far too much detail, enhanced by some added gruesomeness in the autopsy room. And vomiting. (No-one ever vomited in crime fiction prior to about 1990 – now they all do it. Or urinate/defecate with fear. What has happened to the human race? Can I really be the only person who doesn’t want to read about people losing control of their bodily functions? Harrow my soul, dear authors, not my stomach…)
Now for the positives. Sherez writes very well – way above average standard in contemporary crime writing. He has clearly done his research on the situation in Uganda thoroughly and that whole element of the book is completely convincing, adding a considerable amount of depth to what would otherwise be a fairly standard police procedural. The prologue, with the three students in Uganda, is very well done, building a great atmosphere of tension in a few pages and making the reader immediately care about the outcome. Although we are only taken back to Uganda occasionally throughout the book, this strand is the one that held my interest most and felt most authentic.
Both Carrigan and Miller are well-drawn characters, likeable despite their angst and quirkiness, and with plenty of room for future development. Carrigan is still mourning the death of his wife, and Miller’s marriage has just broken up, but neither of these elements is allowed to dominate the story. This is the first time Carrigan and Miller have worked together, and we see them developing a respect for each other that looks like it may in time blossom into friendship, or perhaps more. There’s a lot of office politics going on – too much for my taste – but it’s well done, even if there are parts of it which don’t quite come over as believable.
The main plot and investigation elements are interesting and convincingly written. The detectives play within the rules for the most part except, of course, for the obligatory police-officer-beats-up-suspect scenario. The writing slips a little when it goes into dialogue, with people expressing themselves with an eloquence that doesn’t ring true to their characters. Unfortunately the ending does the usual thing of throwing credibility away in order to achieve a dramatic dénouement.
I know I’ve been critical of several things in the book, but partly that’s down to my personal taste, and partly the preponderance of well-worn clichés is the kind of thing that often happens in the first of a series – sadly, may even be necessary for a first book to find a publisher in these days when what they seem to want is for every book to be identical to the last best-seller. Overall, I like Sherez’s writing style very much, though I do wish he would tone down the gore. The characterisation is very good, especially of the two central characters. And, as in Eleven Days, the quality of research shines through, with the secondary story providing a strong backdrop for the main action. Recommended, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how the series develops in future.