It was the author’s name who caught my eye when trawling through Netgalley – Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is my mother’s favourite writer and when I reviewed her book The Hostage Heart, I was favourably impressed, although it isn’t normally the type of book I read.
When the body of a smartly-dressed businessman turns up in the yard of Eli Simpson’s car workshop, DCI Bill Slider and his team soon surmise that the victim was someone’s ‘enforcer’. So who was Mr King? Who was he the muscle for? And what did he know that made someone decide to terminate the terminator?
This isn’t a cosy mystery – the cover makes that very plain. But neither is it some grimy, downbeat murder misery, where the main protagonist is fuelled by anger as he wades through a depressing cityscape awash with social deprivation. There isn’t anything wrong with the above – I just want to make it plain exactly what this book is about, because I’m not sure the cover fully conveys that.
Bill Slider is happily married to a musician, so he occasionally has to work from home when she is off playing in an orchestra somewhere. I like the fact that he isn’t some drink-soaked depressive with no home life – and that he also has a reasonable relationship with his superior, who he mostly likes and respects. There are likeable, chirpy characters in his team, who we learn about while they trudge through the various leads.
As for the murder – it’s a while before the team manage to get their teeth into this one and as I haven’t read the previous 19 books, I would suggest this is a useful entry point. I had time to get my bearings and work out what was happening to whom before the plot really took off. Though this isn’t a foot-to-the-floor action thriller, it’s far more the steady accumulation of clues through hard graft and constant checking.
I found the actual unravelling of the mystery unexpectedly engrossing as we begin to learn snippets about this rather shadowy character. By the time I’d reached the final quarter of the book, it was something of a struggle to put it down, while I read far longer than I’d intended to get to the end and discover whodunit. Harrod-Eagles writes characters very well as the final denouement produced a satisfying end to a solidly good murder mystery.
The next time I need a fix of a quality murder mystery, I shall definitely be going back to this series and sampling more of Bill Slider’s adventures – it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.