Grave's End (DS Alexandra Cupidi) by William Shaw

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Grave's End (DS Alexandra Cupidi) by William Shaw

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Book three in the series reads well as a standalone, but it's likely to make you want to go back and read the first two books in the series proper and possibly the prequel! It's classy plotting and exciting writing that puts the series in the top few that you really should not miss. Intelligent crime fiction.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: July 2020
Publisher: riverrun
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1529401806

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Gram Hickman, who worked for an estate agent, took his girlfriend, Angela Booth, to a house which his firm was marketing. Guildeford Hall was an old Kentish oast house and was on the market for millions of pounds. Gram was hoping that he could get Angela into bed and he'd brought a bottle of prosecco along. It was when searching for somewhere to chill the bottle that he found the body of a man in the freezer in the garage. DS Alexandra Cupidi and DC Jill Ferriter are on the case.

Well, Jill would have gone on the first visit, but she had a date arranged with Harry French. He's good-looking, rich and charismatic: what's not to like? Alex Cupidi isn't entirely certain about him, but she's got other things to deal with. Her seventeen-year-old daughter, Zoë, is protesting about work being done at Whitelands Fields where thousands of houses are to be built. She's there with a friend Jay and no, he's not a boyfriend, but it's Jay who rings Alex when Zoë is held by the site's guard and her phone confiscated. Zoë is concerned that an attempt is going to be made to move the badgers on the site illegally. We hear quite a bit about (and from) the badgers - it's absolutely fascinating.

Zoë's in for more trauma too. She sees a drawing of the so-far-unidentified dead man whose body was found in the freezer and realises that she knows him. He's Vinnie Gibbons, a naturalist who's also protesting about the development of Whitelands Fields. And Vinnie's death is the first of many, with an attempt being made on Alex Cupidi's life. Occasionally the deaths do seem to come just a little too thick and fast, but that's a minor quibble in a book which has exemplary plotting, excellent characterisation and a splendid evocation of the location.

The location is Kent. Cupidi lives out near Dungeness, an area of outstanding natural beauty despite the presence of a nuclear reactor. William Shaw brings it all splendidly to life and he has a real talent with the wildlife. He made me want to go there. The location put me in mind of the North Norfolk coast and Steve Burrows' Birder Murder Mysteries which started well, but is easily outclassed by Shaw's Alexandra Cupidi novels.

The combination of Cupidi and Ferriter is more than the sum of the parts and Shaw develops it superbly. It's a cliché, but they're chalk and cheese. Ferriter's always immaculate, Cupidi doesn't bother much about how she looks. Ferriter is outgoing, Cupidi reserved, but somehow there's a close personal and professional relationship there and it comes off the page well. Cupidi's the star of the show, but I find myself rooting for Jill Ferriter. She had a difficult childhood, but she's pulled herself through it and she's making a success of her life. Well, apart from the odd glitch with unsuitable men.

It's the plot you want to know about, isn't it? I loved it. It ranges over so many problems we've faced recently: abuse in a minor public school, the shortage of housing and the need for more to be built in the countryside. It's thought-provoking without ever being preachy.

As well as reading this book I listened to an audio download (which I bought myself) narrated by Jasmine Blackborow. There was the occasional mis-hit with regard to pronunciation, but I liked the range of voices and I'd happily listen to more from her. She narrated the first three novels in the Cupidi series proper, although the prequel, The Birdwatcher, is narrated by Roger Davis.

You could read this book as a standalone, but you'll probably get more out of the series if you read them in chronological order. You might also enjoy Beneath the Ashes by Jane Isaac.

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