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.

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Indelible (A Chris Honeysett Mystery) by Peter Helton

indelibleArt for fun’s sake…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

When painter and PI Chris Honeysett is invited to take part in an exhibition at the Bath Arts Academy, where he was once briefly a tutor, it seems like it should be a fairly straightforward event. As soon as he gets there, though, Chris is persuaded against his better judgement to take on a teaching role on a temporary basis, and to help organise the exhibition. But it’s not long before all kinds of strange things are happening – mysterious symbols appearing on walls and carved into trees, glimpses of a wild looking man running naked through the woods, someone sneaking in at night to add to the exhibitors’ paintings and, worse, making them better! And it’s not long until one of the exhibitors is found murdered in circumstances that leave Chris as a prime suspect. It’s up to him to find the true culprit before any more murders are committed…

The story is told by Chris in the first person, past tense, and he’s a great character, engaging and full of humour. He’s not the most competent PI in the world, since it’s something he does only to augment the little money he earns from his paintings, and to be honest there isn’t a great deal of detection in the book. But he is observant – his painter’s eye allows him to spot things that others might miss, and he’s a pretty good judge of character. And there are some good characters for him to judge – the artists gathered together for the exhibition make a nicely eccentric bunch. There’s the drunken one with the chip on his shoulder, the rather punky woman who has made a career out of painting clouds, the installation artist who (rather fortunately) doesn’t need to make a living from her art since she has the luxury of having a rich husband, and the man that everyone hates because he suddenly became fashionable a few years back and is now as rich as he is pompous. Add on the various teachers at the academy, a range of students from the highly talented to the merest daubers, and the new owner, who hates all artists with a passion, and it’s understandable that Chris has his work cut out for him.

The story also gives us a glimpse into Chris’ personal life – feisty fellow artist Annis, his girlfriend and housemate, who also happens to be having a relationship with Tim, Chris’ partner in the PI business. Confused? So’s Chris, poor man! But the three of them work well together despite their mixed-up lives.

Peter Helton
Peter Helton

The tone of the book is fairly light but the storyline is meaty enough to prevent it from falling into ‘cosy’ territory. The setting in the Arts Academy gives it something of the feel of an old-fashioned country house mystery, with a limited number of suspects and possible victims. To be honest though, the murder plot is almost secondary to the enjoyment of Chris’ observations on his life, his fellow artists and, indeed, on the process of producing art. I know nothing about the mechanics of painting, sculpture etc, but I felt strongly that Helton does and, through Chris, he imparts quite a lot of information, but weaving it smoothly into the story rather than dumping it randomly onto the reader. Helton’s writing style is relaxed and easy – it gives that effortless feeling that probably suggests a lot of work went into it. An entertaining read – this is my first introduction to Peter Helton’s books, but I look forward to getting to know both him and Chris Honeysett better.

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

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