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==Synopsis of the book:==
A tramps body is discovered in an empty mill having been burnt to death. This brings in DCI Charlie Woodend and his team of Bob Rutter, Monika Paniatowski and DC Colin Beresford in to investigate. However with the body badly burnt the first and very difficult task for the team will be to try and identify the dead man.
The investigation is soon influenced by Politics, as Woodend wants to increase patrols to protect the vulnerable homeless particularly at night. This brings him into direct conflict with Councillor Lowry, who is under pressure, while looking for re-election, to keep costs to minimum and Police overtime charges are not on his agenda and something that would work against him.
It is the mid 1960's and many in this Lancashire town's people are feeling threatened by not only the homeless people arrived from the country but also immigration from places like Pakistan. As a result a group of youths called the Hard Mods are starting to cause trouble particularly against these groups. Woodend agrees to put DC Beresford under cover and try and discover more about these threatening young men and find out if they are behind this unpleasant killing.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I suppose I have read at least half a dozen of the 20 novels in this series. I am pleased to say yet again that I thought this was an excellent Detective novel. The analogy I would use to describe my feelings about this series is one of a favourite jumper, because I know whenever I come to find a new one of these stories it will leave me feeling warm, comfortable and satisfied.
With this novel I was as usual looking forward to reading it, but I found I really didn't want to put it down once I'd started reading it. Indeed I was disappointed when I had finished it because I knew I would struggle to find a novel I would enjoy as much as I did this one. Although I would be the first to admit it was not the greatest story ever written, it was absorbing and I found I had read it in no time at all.
This particular book is one of Sally Spencer's latest, having been written in 2008. I think this if not the last it will be one of the last featuring DCI Woodend in this series. As I think it has run its natural course and it is time for DCI Paniatowski to take over and move the story on.
Being an experienced reader of the series the decision to purchase this novel was not a difficult one. I was also very keen to read the latest instalment in the series. As I have a real affection for the characters this talented author has created within these books and I wanted to know what they had been up to now within their private lives. As although the lead characters in Woodend's team are talented Detectives their personal lives are fascinating and always changing.
However although I really enjoy these books I am not blind to any faults I discover within them. In this one the first feature that I thought was slightly disappointing was the summary on the back page of the book. I thought two short paragraphs were not enough to do justice to this story.
Although I must admit they were both well written and they wetted my appetite appropriately, it still was not enough. Instead the rest of the back cover was filled up with compliments about this book from magazines and organisations I had never heard of. It would have been better to have comments from papers I knew and then I would if I was a new reader to the series have more confidence in what I was about to read.
The first thing I liked about this book was that it had a prologue. Not only did it have a prologue but also it was a very good introduction to the story. Yes maybe it was a little short but it was relevant and a great way of reeling the reader in straight away to the story. Quite often I find when a book has a prologue they are confusing and only make sense when you have either finished the book or almost completed it.
From this point of view I felt the story was already on going and the murder had already been committed. This really appeals to me as I like a good structured investigation, not one in which you are waiting for something to happen. For me this allows the Detectives more time to solve it and allows the author time to create more mystery and suspense. Not to mention more unexpected twists within it.
While I felt this story was never ground breaking and I have read thrillers in the past that deal with murder of the homeless population. But it was still very enjoyable and well thought out by the writer so that I never felt I was not reading something new and exciting.
Woodend as a character is always one that attracts controversy in the books with his unusual way of working. But what I found it sadly refreshing was the role that Politics played within the Police force and that even 40 years ago there were worries about the Police overtime budget. Plus I liked the concept of these 'Hard Mods' that were introduced early on in the story and getting to know and understand more about their views.
I felt the story was well broken up by following the various members of DCI Woodend's team. It gave the reader not only a change of perspective as each member of his team had their role within the investigation, but it also allowed you to at times have a break from their work and see what they were up to in their colourful personal lives. It adds a different and very enjoyable aspect to the main story and in this one I was very interested the whole way through as to what would happen in Bob Rutter's private life.
My only real problem with this story is I realised who was the guilty party when I had read less than half of the story. I really should have been a Detective!! But despite this I still really enjoyed the story and all the excitement within it. I was right in my deduction by the way, but it did not ruin the books for me, I just realised that for once I was a little smarter than I thought I was.
This author can tell a mean story with lots to enjoy within his writing. What surprised and I'm trying not to say too much was the unexpected conclusion to the book. For me it was totally out of the blue but in retrospect it did make perfect sense. I really like novels that surprise you at the end and this one certainly did that.
Not only was it well-paced, exciting crime thriller; it also has an epilogue as well!! Not only that but it was a full six pages as well. I really thought this was an excellent ending to the book as it was thoughtful, understandable and perfectly dealt with all the characters and their reaction to what had happened.
Without doubt one of the real joys with this series of stories is the powerful and diverse character the author developed. I think even if this was not a crime thriller I would still read it if it involved these fabulous lead characters that feature in all this series. I would say they are as enjoyable as the stories they feature in as the more you get to know them the better they seem and the more you want to know about them.
Once upon a time I would have described DCI Woodend as the star of these books, but over time his team involvement has increased so that I would say they are all now lead characters. This I think really helps the reader, as not only do you have different styles and perceptions on the investigations but also much more to learn about their changing lives.
For me the author has excelled in making and developing their skills and their role within Woodend's team. They are all easy to relate to and I particularly like the way they gel as a team. Their views are easy to respect and like and I enjoy the interplay between them.
In contrast the characters that are only specific to this story for example the Hard Mods and the Councillors tended to play a less prominent role in the story. As a result I found them hard to relate to or to get to know or feel any affinity with. I do think this approach worked but it would have been nice to have a little more detailed characters and their personalities supporting this story.
It was certainly for me a polished and highly enjoyable novel, that had almost everything but humour. Which I think would have ruined and detracted from the story and the characters themselves.
This was a first class Detective story that I enjoyed and would recommend to all. It was basically a good, well-told story incorporating some excellent well-rounded characters within it. Probably not my favourite in the series but still fascinating and entertaining and well worth a read.
Publisher: Severn House
ISBN: 10- 1847510590
ISBN: 13- 978-1847510594
About the author: www.sallyspencer.com
Year of Publication: 2008