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==Synopsis of the book:==
Former Constable Nick Rhea tells various short stories of experiences of being a rural Policeman on the beat in Aidensfield, Yorkshire in the 1960's. The book starts with his involvement in an ancient custom of marking the Parish Boundaries with a procession of villagers. For reading up the history of this the Policeman finds this needs to be done every three years and usually involves a fight at the pub!!
The variety of stories the author shares reminds the reader of the variety of work a Policeman could have been asked to undertake. Such as investigating a deserted farmhouse which had its back down left unlocked. to looking into the theft of a warehouse. Where the owner had not visited the premises for a year but when he does the unit he stored items in had disappeared. The stories show that a lot of what a local bobby did in those days involved common sense and being a focal point for the members of the community.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
This book was not at all what I was expecting which for me probably meant it was a disappointment. I having studied the cover read that this series of stories 'inspired the hugely successful TV series Heartbeat.' As a result of this I expected a murder mystery from a rural village in Yorkshire like I remembered or thought I remembered the Television series. Instead I got about 16 short stories demonstrating the diversity of life as a Policeman during this time.
Don't get me wrong I love the Heartbeat series and as I expected something similar with the same level of excitement and mystery I felt somewhat let down. But that is not to say it was not a good and interesting read. It was always well written with the majority of the stories interesting and having a lesson to tell. For me the beauty of the book was learning more about life in the 1960's and some of the unusual things that a Policeman was expected to do.
I purchased this book at a Car boot sale a few months ago with several others. I bought 4 books for a £1 and while it was obvious this was a second hand copy it appeared in reasonable nick (sorry!!). As it was a busy sale I never got a chance to read the summary of the story on the inside cover, had I done so maybe I wouldn't have bought it. As this advised the reader that this was a book full of stories about life around Aidensfield in the 1960's. Not a murder mystery I had expected. That said at just 25p I'm sure I got my monies worth from it.
As you will have guessed by what I have told you so far this was my first experience of the work of author Nicholas Rhea. And I was amazed that there are 33 books in this series yet I had never come across them before. And for once the critical acclaim on the back cover of the book about previous Constable Stories was useful as it told me a little about what to expect and how his previous stories had been viewed.
For me when I started reading the book I found it a little slow paced and the majority of the stories were quite dull. Yes there were well told but I kept hoping for more excitement or an unexpected twist in the story. Usually this did not happen and while the story generally had a good reason for being shared it lacked bite and left me feeling the author maybe missed an opportunity to tell one long story that had more depth to it. As clearly this author can tell a good story, I just felt with the stories being so short there was little chance of much mystery or suspense and they were over in a twinkle of an eye.
However at the same time there was a real charm to the stories. They certainly seemed to take me back to a very different world where the Local Policeman was a very important part of village life. And as such it was a good reminder of what life was like back then. I really liked the story about travel and the lack of it with many villagers not having a holiday and some not ever leaving the local community.
I must admit I have never read a series of short stories that I have truly enjoyed. I like a story with background and depth something where you have suspense and a twist or two within it and I was never going to get that in this book. That said the book was very easy to read and the author explains terms and local words so that the reader can never get lost or confused by what is happening. I found I read this book in three evenings.
I found the lead character Constable Nick Rhea to be a very likeable person, even though I did keep picturing Nick Berry playing his role as he did in Heartbeat. I liked his attitude towards the people within the community and the way he was always willing to help out even if it wasn't really a Police matter. Added to this I enjoyed learning a little about his life away from the Police force and his family responsibilities. He seemed a very intelligent man and one who it was easy to respect because he gave it back to the community as well.
One feature I had not expected which for me was a bonus was the humour within the story. It was not present in all the stories but it could be very dry and subtle but it usually made me smile. As through the author's very good descriptions of the scene and the characters within it I could picture it.
I am really in two minds as to whether I shall read another in this series of stories. On the positive side I should because I would have a much better idea of what to expect and so not have unrealistic expectations. However as a rule I don't particularly enjoy short stories and these tended to be quite gentle and simple. So they jury is still out, I have always said you can't judge an author on one back alone so I really should.
As a result I am undecided about if I should recommend this book or not. I suppose it depends what you want to get out of it, because if you want a selection of quaint stories of life in a small Yorkshire village in the 1960's this could be exactly what you want. However if like me you want more depth and a longer, twisting story with real suspense within it this is clearly not.
Price: £3.39 New at Amazon
Publisher: Robert Hale
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS July 2013.