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Bookends: Headhunting the Police stirs emotions February 11, 2016

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Headhunting the Police stirs emotions

By Dan Davidson

LIfe for a LifeNovember 25, 2015

– 770 words –


Life for a Life

By T. Frank Muir

Chicago Review Press

392 pages


There is a pattern here that is common to most British police procedurals. The lead character, often middle rank with a few people working under him, will have lost his wife, either due to job pressures or infidelity (his or hers). Chances are he drinks too much, and knows it. He’s lonely. He may or may not be good looking enough to be pursued by some female associate. He’s quite bright, but probably a tad reckless and may get himself in over his head.

DCI Andrew Gilchrist of the Fife Constabulary in Saint Andrews, which my British bus tour experience tells me has lots of golf courses, can check off most of these boxes. It was his wife who was unfaithful, and that was probably dealt with in one of the three books that came before this one. Since the separation he’s had an affair with one of his subordinates, and that didn’t go well. The ramifications are lurking in the background of this book and do surface a bit at the end.

Andrew is gun shy about relationships. This seems to be due to his divorce and to that interoffice fling I mentioned. What he has to be nervous about is a very amorous and desirable medical examiner, who keeps coming on to him throughout the book. They have known each other, in the Biblical sense, just once, and he’d love to know more, but she’s married and it feels to him just too much like what his wife did, or at least that’s how it comes across.

Gilchrist has a new assistant in this book, a very edgy younger woman named Jessica Janes, who is, of course, nicknamed Jesse. She has a deaf and dumb son for whom she would do anything, and a clutch of really nasty relatives, a mum and two brothers, criminals all, who keep intruding on her life.

Jesse’s son Robert’s ambition is to become a stand-up comedian, or at least a writer of that sort of material. So Jesse has been helping him by trying out his stuff in clubs. She is not very good at it, and the jokes aren’t that great either, but it does show us how devoted she is to the young man.

Where Gilchrist deviates from the DCI template I outlined earlier is that he’s actually quite kind, in a sort of George Gently way. He actually cares about the people he works with, tries to understand them, and puts up with a fair bit of crap from Jesse in order to bring out the best in her as a detective and partner.

So here I am, halfway through this column and I haven’t even begun to the plot. Tells you what I liked most about the story, doesn’t it?

It’s a really ugly murder story, and it begins with a two and half page opening sequence that has a young woman running – unsuccessfully – for her life.

Initially, it’s a murder with what seem to be not clues, no motives, not even an identity. This is kind of where Jesse, newly transferred in from another region, comes in handy, because she’s seen something like this before, and that little end of a thread is just enough for the locals to pull on and begin to find other connections.

These a human trafficking ring. It’s super nasty, so much so that we eventually learn even the upper echelons of the local ungodly don’t want anything to do with the people behind it. Later on in the book Gilchirst has an absolutely chilling meeting with the local regional crime boss that really underlines how nasty his suspects are.

Because their local activities have been uncovered, even to a small degree, these lowlifes have decided to roll up their entire operation and start fresh elsewhere. To them this means eliminating all the girls, all the middle persons they used in setting up their base camps, and anyone that might have developed even the slightest of clues as to what they were up to.

That means they’ve decided to target the police, and they do it in a style somewhat reminiscent of the ISIS killings we’ve seen some many of recently.

The story goes off in some directions that I didn’t expect it to, and some of the solutions that are arrived at seem to be as a result of good luck rather than good planning, but life’s like that a lot of the time, so I really didn’t mind.




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