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The Dead Hand of History - Sally Spencer

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Genre: Mystery / Author: Sally Spencer / ISBN: 9780727868053 / Publication Date: 2009 / Publisher: Severn House Publishers Ltd

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      29.01.2012 10:42
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      Very good Detective story

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      Things are definitely changing in Lancashire. The year is 1973 and DCI Charlie Woodend has retired from the force. His replacement was his former assistant Monika Paniatowski. Never before has a woman reached DCI level in this force and Monika will need to deal with a good deal of prejudice not only from the Public but her own colleagues, as she seeks to establish herself and make her new position her own.


      Unfortunately for her, her first day in the job a severed hand of a female is discovered in a carrier bag on the banks of the river. She immediately starts the process of finding who this belongs too. But before she gets far the Press contact her having been tipped off about another hand left in a freezer bag in their bins at the back of the building. However this second discovery is not the partner to this first hand discovered as everyone expects and this belonged to a man.


      In Monika's first investigation in charge, will she be able to cope with the pressure of filling Charlie Woodend's boots? After all he was an amazing Detective and Monika's hero, can his protégée prove she is every bit as good as him or will sexism and racism bring a premature ending to what looked like a promising career?


      ==My thoughts on this novel:==


      I thought this was a very well thought out and interesting Detective story. Initially I wondered if I would enjoy it because I always had a soft spot for the previous lead character DCI Charlie Woodend and I was not sure if I would be able to develop this sort of relationship with Monika Paniatowski, but having read this one I am sure now I will enjoy reading about her expliotes in the future.


      As you can surmise from this I have read a few books written by this author. In total under the name Sally Spencer she has written 29 novels, with the vast majority being in the DCI Woodend series. This is the first book of four so far featuring DCI Paniatowski as the investigating officer. For me these books written by Spencer are always cleverly written and a real insight into the Team work required within an investigation.


      And while DCI Paniatowski is not a new character she only ever played a bit role in the previous books. This did however give the reader a chance to get to know a little about this lady and her unusual private life. So in a sense it was not like reading about a completely new character but it was odd to see her in this new environment and good to see some of the insecurities she felt in this new position and to see how she dealt with this.


      I knew that DCI Woodend was close to retirement in the previous books I enjoyed in the series and I assumed when he retired so would the series. But the author quite bravely decided to continue on with the story with his replacement. What appeals to me particularly is 1973 was a time of change and the author clearly shows how some are willing and able to adapt and except this changing world while others wanted to keep the status quo. I think the author captures changing environment and attitudes especially towards women really well and intelligently.


      This book has been on my wanted list for a while, so as soon as I received an Amazon voucher I knew this was the first book I wanted to read. Mainly because I was interested in how the author was going to pass the baton onto Paniatowski and how she coped with this promotion with all the expectation she would be expected to live up to. Added to this was the unusual title of the book which I had no idea where the author was going with this idea.

      So I checked out the summary on the inside cover of the book. And while this was not particularly long only two paragraphs it with rich in detail and brought all the concepts of what life would be like now Charlie Woodend was gone to life. It made me intrigued and even at this early stage before I had even started reading I was interested in how his replacement would fair taking over from a local hero.


      The story started with a three page prologue which wets the appetite nicely. And while you do not know who is being held hostage, why or by whom you sense the lady is in big trouble. It makes you wonder what will happen to her and creates a sense of mystery straight away. And while it is a interesting way to start the novel I found it a little confusing and in retrospect something that was not really necessary.


      When the actual story started I found I was instantly involved and interested in it as a hand was quickly found that belonged to a female. I found I was keen to know more about what had happened and I was just as keen to see how Monika dealt with some of her team members who where out to advance their own careers at the expense of hers. I found this part well thought out and I wondered how she would deal with a bad apple in her new team. And unfortunately this was not dealt with in the kind of detail I would like.


      The investigation was unusual as the first thing Paniatowski's team needed to do was establish who the two severed hands belonged too, with the press already alerted and wanting more information on the crimes. I liked the way the author showed the DCI was very vulnerable and how she would dearly liked to ask the advice of her previous boss especially as the investigation did not always go as she would have liked.


      I thought there was a really good mix in the story between the investigation and the DCI's private life. This for me added balance and really gave the reader the opportunity to understand and get to know this ladies perspective on many things outside the Police force. Usually in the DCI Woodend the author shares details of his teams private lives but in this one it basically focused on her and I think given she was the new boss was a good and sensible decision.


      The story was very well written and one that was full of surprises. It had a really good pace about it and I found it so easy to read quickly, with enough depth and thought to make the old brain cells think about what was happening and try to work out the solution to it. And despite unusually few suspects I never knew what the solution would be until it was explained to me. With a conclusion that was exciting and made sense in the context of the rest of the story.


      Clearly the new DCI Monika Paniatowski was the lead character in this book. I found as the story developed I really warmed to her personality and I was keen for the prejudice that she was facing and dealing with to be beaten. I liked the way the author shared her thoughts and even when she said something different to what she was thinking. I thought the writer really showed the explained the tough task she was facing taking over from a legend and being the first lady to reach that rank in the station. I was certainly won over and almost as keen as she was for her new career to start of with success, given those around her who wanted and plotted for her to fail.

      I thought the length of the book was just right to tell a fascinating tale. There was for me just the right level of detail and lots of avenues the story could have taken. It was always full of mystery and the author did well to create as much suspense as she did given there where few suspects in the story. Although the epilogue I also felt was unnecessary as it added little value to the story just closed of one aspect from the previous series.

      ==Conclusion:==

      I thought this was an excellent introduction to the DCI Paniatowski series of stories. It was always well written with many surprising twists in the plot of the story. I found I was totally engrossed in the story and in no time had I completed this fascinating tale. Although I felt the prologue and epilogue added nothing to the quality of the story.

      ==Other information:==

      Hardback version

      Pages: 235
      Price: 10.99
      Publisher:Severn House
      ISBN-10: 0727868055
      ISBN-13:978-0727868053
      Year of Publication: 2009
      About the author: www.sallyspencer.com

      Thanks for reading my review.

      This review is published under my user name on both Dooyoo and Ciao.

      © CPTDANIELS January 2012.

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