Still Waters by Judith Cutler

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Still Waters by Judith Cutler

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Jo Heffer
Reviewed by Jo Heffer
Summary: Detective Chief Superintendant Fran Harman has never been busier. There are a number of unsolved crimes on the books, her new boss is making life very difficult for her and she is restoring an old rectory with her partner Mark. Added to all this, there's something very strange with the local water supply.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Allison and Busby
ISBN: 978-0749080587

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I had not read any of Judith Cutler's previous novels so I did not know what to expect when I read Still Waters. As it turned out it was an absorbing read with a good balance of crime investigation and personal stories. Judith Cutler has written a number of crime novels set in Kent and all of these include the same characters we meet in Still Waters. It didn't seem to matter that I had not read any of the others although I suspect that there are some story lines which follow through from one novel to the next.

In Still Waters, Detective Chief Superintendent Fran Harman is suspicious about an apparent suicide and she is also reviewing a murder case which appeared to have been solved but the two men originally found guilty of the crime are appealing against their conviction. As she digs deeper and deeper into the two cases, she discovers that neither case is as straightforward as it first seemed. At the same time, she has a new boss who is a former protegé of hers, but for some reason seems to resent her and deliberately obstruct her in her investigations. Her personal life is slightly happier as she and her partner, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Turner, are buying and restoring an old rectory together. However, Mark has a daughter who also seems intent on making her life a misery.

At the start of the novel, all these stories seemed quite unconnected and it was quite difficult to follow all the different strands. However, as the story progressed it started to become apparent how everything fitted together and thus became an enjoyable read. I did find I needed to concentrate quite a lot in order to make sense of everything though and it is a more satisfying read when you can read a sustained amount in one session. I read the final 100 pages on a train journey and by the end I was totally absorbed and I didn't want it to end.

I enjoyed the way that the professional police investigation and Fran's personal life were intertwined throughout the novel. Some of the aspects of the police work were fascinating although I didn't enjoy the graphic descriptions of dead bodies and postmortems. The personal aspects made Fran a more rounded character and a little more 'human' than if she had simply been portrayed as a successful superintendent. All of the characters seemed quite believable although at times I was a little confused about everyone's roles and who was answerable to who.

I had a slight problem with the way the book was written as it featured too much dialogue for my liking. At times there were quite long conversations and I tended to lose track of who was speaking which meant that I had to reread some sections more than once. This is only a minor gripe though, and overall did not detract from my enjoyment.

The story gained momentum and pace as it neared the end and I was kept guessing right up to the end about certain outcomes. It was an interesting storyline and definitely maintained my interest throughout. However, I felt that many things remained unresolved at the end, but I suspect that this is because the book is part of a series. The rectory was nowhere near being fully restored and there were still many issues with Mark's daughter but these are likely to be picked up in her next novel. This is probably a clever ploy on the part of Judith Cutler, because it does make you want to find out what happens.

Overall, Still Waters is a very enjoyable read which should appeal to anyone who enjoys reading crime fiction. If you enjoy this book, you might also like Every Secret Thing by Emma Cole.

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