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Over the past few months I have read several crime thrillers by Sally Spencer. This one I found in my local library and I immediately decided I must read it. The book features Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend as it's investigating officer and as I rule I have enjoyed this series of novels.
==About the author:==
Sally Spencer does not exist as a writer. It is a pseudonym used by the author Alan Rustage. He lives and writes in his home Spain. He has written seven books in the Inspector Blackstone series, three in the Inspector Ruiz series under the name James Garcia Woods. Plus another 28 under the Sally Spencer name of which 20 are in the Inspector Woodend series.
==Synopsis of the book:==
DCI Charlie Woodend spent a few months during the Second World War serving at an American Army Base in Haverton in the UK. This was leading up to the Normandy Landings. Woodend served under a man he absolutely detested a Captain Douglas Coutes who years later became the Minister of Defence and still a man Woodend had no time for.
The British Government 21years later tell Woodend that he must help his old Captain. As now the Minister is the Prime Suspect in a murder investigation run by the FBI on the old Haverton site. The body recently being dug up of Captain Robert Kineally is found in a shallow grave in the woods and believed to have been there for a considerable length of time.
Captain Coutes was known to have hated Kineally, as their ideologies were so very different. Both men where trying to woo a young attractive lady Mary Parkinson and this led them coming to blows a few days before the American mysteriously vanished. No one at the time knew if he was dead, defected or just run away from the war, now they do. DCI Woodend must now try and find the truth and defend his old Captain, something that he loathed to do especially as he really liked the dead man.
==My thoughts on this book:==
Once again I really enjoyed a Sally Spencer novel featuring DCI Woodend. I have read and reviewed about six in this series so far and the author's work has never disappointed me. This novel is the 15th of 20 so far and was written in 2006. I found the story very easy to get into and understand and it contained some good twists and turns within it.
Do not be put of by this fact, as you can pick up any of these books in any sequence as I generally do and enjoy it without having to know what's happened before. The story is always new it is just the main characters that remain and develop over the series. So that after you have read a few of them it is like returning to an old trusted friend and their new adventure being shared with you.
On the front cover of the book there is a quote from Booklist advising these books are in the same league as Rebus, Resnick and Morse. I can only agree with this sentiment, as I believe the author has created a wonderful group of characters in this 1960's thriller as rival and are in the same class as these better known stars.
I really liked the idea behind this book. The fact that Woodend had to go back into his past to solve a crime that had been committed 21 years ago I found appealing. Especially when I found out the main suspect was a man he used to work for whom he could not stand and now he had to try and get him off a charge of murder, something that he really didn't want to do, but he knew he must.
Having read a few in the series, I know or think I know roughly what to expect. However the author consistently impresses me with the way the plot unfolds and particularly in this book the way the case develops. I love a book with mystery and suspense and this book was full of it and at the same time was very unexpected too. The turn of events was well thought out and impressively described.
The novel begins with a prologue, not only was it interesting but a reasonable length as well. It was only once I was half way through the book I understood it and it made sense in the context of the actual story. I always think I prologue is a great way to set a good story and I found this one had me intrigued. As I wanted to know more about the circumstances surrounding this one and understand where it fitted into the real story.
What I found the author very skilfully did was to run the investigation and what was happening within it, to what was happening in the weeks leading up to the disappearance of Captain Kineally. It was like Woodend was searching his memory in order to remember and resight the fact of what happened all those years ago. I found this approach very acceptable and at no stage did I get confused as to whether I was in the past or the present, because it was all clearly signposted to the reader.
Although you could argue this story was never ground breaking. It was always interesting and very well written. For me the best part of the story was the very unexpected turn it took. I thought I knew what to expect and what I did know I didn't know if that makes any sense. The author cleverly disguised and kept certain important information from the reader that could only be discovered by reading and searching deeper into the past.
The books pace was consistent until the final few chapters when it became lightning fast. It certainly moved at that stage from being merely interesting to very exciting as the story reached it's conclusion.
The book did not have an epilogue and although I always moan at authors for this, I found in this novel it was not necessary, as everything had already been explained. I think on this occasion he had it right. Although I find it a little odd especially as there was a prologue, it would have surely been logical to have an epilogue too.
DCI Woodend is the main character in the series. I find him a likable if somewhat dated character, but then what do you expect, this was the mid 1960's after all. I like his instinct for right over wrong regardless of what the subject matter is. He is a strong character that stands up for what he believes even if that makes him unpopular and disliked. I would say as a character he has grown on me the more I read about him and I particularly felt for him during this case defending a man he dispised.
I actually prefer his two very able assistants Sergeant Paniatowski and Bob Rutter. There are great characters and like Woodend appear in all the books. But unlike him there is always things happening in their private lives that make them fascinating. These build up over the novels but can be easily picked up in each one you read.
It is the way these three work together that always will bring about success or failure in a case. They all have their own areas of expertise and although working together on the case will each take responsibility for part of the investigation. They interact well and I enjoy the banter between them, there is a certain chemistry between them and the author uses this very cleverly.
The novel's other characters just appear in this story and frankly disappointed me. They seem to lack depth and seem too stereotyped, for example the FBI Agent Grant was keen and eager and seemed brainwashed in believing and telling how great his organisation was. I thought it would have been better if he was keen to respect and learn from the British Police too and maybe work together as opposed to working practically against one another but on the same side.
The novel's length was probably about right; I would have liked a little longer build up towards the exciting conclusion. However generally it was about right with regular chapters skilfully breaking up the scenes.
This was particularly important, as DCI Woodend would go back and remember conversations with the key players from the Base 21 years previously. By doing this the author made it clear you were going back to a very different time when people were expecting their lives to change and no one knew what the future held.
The Woodend series of crime thrillers are very easy to read but at the same time encourage you to think of the solution as you are reading. However the Detective is certainly ahead of me in his thinking, as I certainly did not see the solution as he did. Once he explained it, it made perfect and logical sense and I was forced to admire somewhat begrudgingly his excellent Detective skills.
I think this novel is well worth a read. It is well written throughout and an interesting story. I particularly liked the unexpected and this novel had it. I'm sure I will be reading another story from Sally Spencer in the near future if there are any more in the library anyway. It is a good example of a well though out Detective story that contains a lot of mystery and one in which you are never sure of the correct answer until it was explained at the end.
Publisher: Severn house
About the author: www.sallyspencer.com
Thanks for reading my review
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
@CPTDANIELS June 2009