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Over the past few years I have read several books by this author within the Chief Inspector Woodend series. For me you can't beat a good Detective story and I have really enjoyed these. In a way I would compare them to the Agatha Christie Poirot stories because I think I understand the star of both and I like the way they go about solving crime. With that in mind when I spotted this novel in the bookshop I knew I had to purchase it.
==About the author:==
Sally Spencer is a pseudonym used by Alan Rustage and this English writer has written 30 novels under this name. With the vast majority 20 being in the Inspector Woodend series plus she has also written her latest couple of novels in a spin off series featuring DCI Monika Paniatowski. The novel I am about to review was the 17th in the series and published in 2007.
==Synopsis of the book:==
The story is set in 1965 in the Lancashire town of Whitebridge. The headless body of Terry Pugh is discovered by the canal having been hung. DCI Woodend boss Henry Marlowe immediately holds a press conference and announces there were no suspicious circumstances and this is not being investigated as it was a desperate man committing suicide.
When Sergeant Paniatowski previously breaks the news to the dead man's widow, she is surprised, as he appears to have everything to live for with a young wife and a baby on the way. Added to the fact just before he dies he meet a mysterious stranger in the pub and goes off with him. DCI Woodend thinks his boss has acted hastily and his thoughts are confirmed when a second body is discovered of a down and out man also found hung.
DCI Woodend and his team now need to find not only the murderer but also what links these two very different men. As the only link they can initially find is that they both live in Whitebridge, but from different sides and they attended different schools, could the link be their similar age range?
==My thoughts on this novel:==
Unsurprisingly I really enjoyed this well thought out Detective story. It was well written throughout and it was a clever story that surprised and impressed me. In truth it was not the deepest most complex story I have ever read but it had the one concept I really love, that of the unexpected.
Having read several of this excellent series, I know roughly what to expect from these stories. Indeed the four members of DCI Woodend team I have really become attached to and I enjoy learning what the new developments are in their lives. I would have to admit this is not the best one in the series but it was still a very enjoyable read and once again I found it absorbing.
When I think about these stories I must admit they are not the most dynamic ever. But I enjoy going back to the 1960's in a time when crime was solved by thinking through the situation, getting the complete picture and digging up the truth. For me it was a time when a Detective had to use all his or her skills to discover the answers without having all the technological advantages available today.
This book although gripping and well paced I found lacked the real in-depth detail that many crime thrillers have. But to be honest this did not bother me as I still felt there was enough in the story to still challenge me. Yes I would have been good to have extra background and a longer more complex Police investigation but as a light read it was very enjoyable.
As soon as I saw the title of this novel I was interested, it conjured up many possibilities in my mind and it was backed up by an interesting summary on the inside cover. It was a good length, but to be honest it wasn't as sharp and fascinating as I would have hoped for. I read it but it didn't inspire me or make me want to read the book any more. In retrospect I think the author could easily have added a couple of additional concepts to wet the readers appetite or even brought out something from the detective teams personal lives.
When I started reading the story, I found I immediately got into it and started enjoying what I was reading. The reason from my perspective was there was something immediately to investigate with a dead body discovered, there was no preamble we were straight into the crime. As a result I was drawn in and while it did not necessarily seem an interesting case there was always the dynamics of the lead characters to enjoy.
I really enjoyed how the story developed and went in a direction I was not expecting. It followed each of the four members of Woodend's team and I liked the way their styles of investigating the crimes varied. At no point during the investigation did I know the answers or where the story was going next. And as a result of this I found I had breezed through the story in no time what so ever.
The story had an exciting conclusion, which although I didn't necessarily agree with I could see it made sense the way it was all explained. There was still the sense of mystery and the unexpected so that the reader can never relax, even once the answers have been found, and I enjoyed the sting in the tail of this story, which although I expected something I didn't know what or how it will conclude.
For me a lot of the beauty and fascinating with this series is around the books lead characters. Despite Chief Inspector Woodend being the senior officer in the investigation, it is a story about not only him but also his team. This I think is an excellent ploy as all his team are fascinating characters and if it centred around Woodend there would not be enough excitement within his personal life for the reader to get their teeth into. The fact that these four characters are at very different times in both their careers and personal lives just adds to the interest for me. Added to the fact that they are a very close team and they each understand their role within the team and generally what is expected of them.
So while the author concentrates on sharing developments in the main characters lives, I did feel greater detail and depth for the characters involved just in this story would have helped add more interest to the story and give the reader a more rounded feel to the story. As it was I felt the story in parts because this lack of information and detail was a little rushed.
The only thing that I would advise new readers to this series of books is start with the earlier ones in the series. I say this because it is important to understand the main characters histories to best understand where they are today. Yes you could start with this one, as it is a self enclosed story but the author does from time to time refer back to what has briefly happened in previous stories and it would not make complete sense.
The book is in my opinion on the short side at only 217 pages long. This I thought could easily be expanded and it would have added depth and detail to the story. For me this would have transformed a very good story into an excellent one. Although it is the mystery and clever way the investigating team piece things together that make the book difficult to put down.
For me this was a very interesting and enjoyable crime thriller and as such one I would recommend. It was a good story that is improved by the excellent characters within Woodend's team who you really feel you can understand and relate to. I found it easy to read and quite a light but gripping story.
Publisher: Severn House
About the author: www.sallyspencer.com
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS June 2011