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Recently I received a thirty pound Amazon voucher, so there was only one section I was going to look at. I managed to purchase six new books all within the Crime section of some of my favourite authors and it so was nice to be able to select just what I fancied at the time rather than what was available at the local charity shop. This was one of my first choices because I have always enjoyed the Sally Spencer Detective stories.
==About the author:==
Sally Spencer is a pseudonym used by Alan Rustage. Under this name he has written 32 novels mainly within the crime arena. The majority of these are within the very popular Inspector Woodend series they account for 20 in total. However this series has now finished as he has retired from the force and the book I am about to review is the second in the series featuring his replacement and former junior DCI Monika Paniatowski. It was written in 2010.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Monika Paniatowski is still new to her role as DCI in Whitebridge in Lancashire. Her boss has just given her a new member for her to manage a DS Cousins who has been suffering from Mental Health problems following the death of his wife. Monika is not keen but realised she did not have a choice in the matter, but would welcome anyone who will treat her with respect and work with her as she has been suffering being the first female DCI at the station at the hands of prejudice amongst her fellow officers.
She and her team are brought in when the body of a naked man is found in the woods. His throat has been cut and it is an unusual humiliating way to be left. The other odd feature is in front of his body his driving licence is left, so that the Police can immediately recognise who the dead man is.
Upon investigation the man Andrew Adair is a local man who has been living in the area for the past six months following 12 years in the Parachute Regiment.
Monika is summoned to meet Mr Forsyth who she has had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting in the past. He works for the Secret Service and is keen to be updated on an ongoing basis on this investigation. As there are concerns that the dead man has been murdered by the IRA because of his involvement in the Bloody Sunday massacre in Ireland.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
I thought this was an excellent Detective thriller from a very talented writer. It was full of surprised and for me really blew the cobwebs of Monika's predecessor Inspector Woodend. As for me DCI Paniatowski has really came into her own having learnt from her previous boss and now is running her own investigations following his retirement. In the first book in this series I felt he was still there in the background and never far from her thoughts, but in this story I felt she had moved on to start to stamp her authority onto the investigation.
I have always enjoyed the Inspector Woodend books and off the 20 I have read at least 12 of them. And to be honest I was surprised when Woodend retired and Monika took over. The reason for this is this was the early 1970's and I thought even someone as good at her job as Paniatowski would be overlooked for promotion because of her sex. So I was impressed when she was promoted and the author decided to follow her investigations as he would have done for Inspector Woodend.
In the Woodend series, Monika was a key member of his team and you learnt quite a lot about her both in an investigation and her personal life, so I am lucky enough to know all about her, which is an advantage and saves having to form a new relationship with a new lead officer. So in a sense I already found I liked her and coupled with the fact she was dealing with prejudice I felt immediately support for her dealing with male chauvinists
My main concern however was would there be the same quality in the story as there was in the previous series? My answer to this on this performance is a resounding yes, as I think the author has separated the two characters with a different style. There is still the same quality of writing and I think the writer is excellent at expressing some of the doubts this new DCI is feeling being the first women in such a high ranking position in Whitebridge.
In truth I had decided to purchase this book before I saw the title or even looked at the summary of the story. The cover of the book is attractive with what looks like a dead tree on the front and it goes well with the interesting title to the book. The summary meanwhile is a little short, only two paragraphs long and tells the reader a little about the crime and the involvement of the secret service. It failed to explain how she feels about her new role and the insecurities she feels. I thought a third paragraph should have been included sharing this. Instead of including compliments from various sources about the book itself.
As soon as I started the book I was impressed. It started with a prologue that was dealing with a prisoner trying to maintain his army training and not giving in to his captor. It gave nothing away about who was holding him and it brought a real sense of mystery immediately to the story that was to remain until the very end. I love a mystery that draws you in quickly and this certainly did it for me as I felt I must find out what was happening and why.
What I really like about this author is not only does he come up with fantastic twisting stories but there is also a lot of depth about the characters in the story, their feeling and shares some details about their private lives. In this story we are just really getting to know some of the new characters in DCI Paniatowski's team and I really like the new characters emerging. Plus importantly you are still learning more about the lead characters personality and the worries she has over her new level of responsibility.
In this story the investigation was clouded by the involvement of the Secret Service. I liked this involvement as it muddied the waters as you wondered why they where involved and if they could have been behind the killing. As you where sure they where not being honest about why they needed to know what was happening, especially as they monitored what was being said by Monika at press conferences.
I really enjoyed the pace of the story and this book probably took we less time than any comparable book I have ever read. As I completed it in two days and never wanted to put it down during that time because I was so wrapped up in the story. I found the way the story developed impressive and I never knew which way the story would go and as for knowing who was responsible for it I just didn't have a clue, until it was explained at the very end.
While I really enjoyed the story and learning all about the main characters personalities, I can see this would not be everyone's cup of tea. As sometimes the story does get a little derailed by following the characters rather than the story itself. For me this is great but others may find this slows the story down a bit. It gives me the background I like to have a better understanding about what is happening and how the characters feel about the challenges they are facing up to.
What really impressed me about this book was the very unexpected and intelligent conclusion to the story. I never saw the solution although it did make perfect sense when it was all explained. Usually I have an inkling or my own solution to the mystery but this one took me by surprise and it was wonderfully done. It was the perfect solution to what was a highly enjoyable and well scripted story and left the story with a full and believable conclusion.
DCI Monika Paniatwoski is the main character is this series and as such I find her intriguing. The author is excellent at sharing her thoughts, concerns and worries. It gives you such a good feeling about how she is dealing with all the sexism that surrounds her, plus the doubts she has about her own capabilities following a man who was a legend in this area who she has taken over from. I think she is an amazing character and one it is very easy to like and respect. What I find impressive is she listens and respects her new team and is prepared to talk through ideas and solutions with them.
For me this is one of the best Detective stories I have read this year. It was well written, it had a great initial concept behind it. Plus I really enjoyed the way the story developed, which was full of good twists and turns. For me the best bit was the completely unexpected conclusion that really rounded of a sensational Detective story and one I would have no hesitation in recommending to all crime story fans.
Price: 10.79 new at Amazon
Publisher: Severn House
About the author: www.sallyspencer.com
Year first Published: 2010
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS April 2012.