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Written by BBC crime correspondent Simon Hall, 'Evil Valley' tells the story of TV crime correspondent (see a coincidence here?) Dan Groves. Dan finds himself drawn into the case of a man who is delivering pig body parts to women and then stealing identity documents from them, whilst his policewoman girlfriend Claire is investigating a suspicious looking police shooting of a man who was abusing his wife. Are the two cases connected? And can Dan stop crazy pig-part-man before his crimes escalate?
I wanted this book to be good, and in parts it is, but unfortunately it is so deeply flawed in other parts that I cannot really recommend it.
Firstly, the story isn't great. The endings of both strands are predictable and depressing, and the plot is surprisingly small scale considering that the back cover blurb implies that the final events of the book will shock the world.
Secondly, the story is very drawn out. It takes a long time to make any progress (possibly because the police and the 'specialists' they call in are almost universally useless) and I couldn't help thinking that the book could have been cut down by about a third. Plus, once the story begins to draw to its obvious conclusion, the book seems to actually slow down even more, and the last few chapters are so anticlimactic that I struggled to get through them.
And thirdly, this book could have done with some serious proof reading. Fot example, there is one particular character who 'hisses' around 90 per cent of his lines, which quickly turns from being sinister into being unintentionally hilarious. There are also other bits which should have been edited out or changed due to their complete pointlessness or lack of realism.
Finally, the criminal in this book isn't scary. We get to hear a lot from his point of view, and this completely destroys any fear or even annoyance we might feel towards him.
This book isn't all bad, though I may have made it feel that way. Some of the writing is really quite good and the characters are reasonably affable. But there are a thousand better crime novels out there and I just can't recommend this over any of them.
The paperback version of Evil Valley has a high RRP of £7.99, but is available on Amazon.co.uk for £5.99. If you are interested, though, I would suggest looking for it in the library or on Ebay instead.