The Sins of the Fathers by Sally Spencer

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The Sins of the Fathers by Sally Spencer

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A well-plotted police procedural which could have benefited from better characterisation but the strength of the plot does make it a worthwhile and enjoyable read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: March 2007
Publisher: Severn House Publishers Ltd
ISBN: 978-0727891822

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The discovery in a lay-by of Bradley Pine's body - bludgeoned to death and then mutilated - put an end to his chances of becoming the next MP for the constituency and started an investigation for Inspector Charlie Woodend and his team. Pine had not been murdered in the lay-by and Woodend could not understand why the murderer had taken the risk of leaving the body in such a public place. The more he delved into the case the more he became convinced that the motive for the murder lay in a tragedy that had happened on a mountainside some three years earlier.

If you enjoy police procedural novels then you'll find this to be solidly and tightly plotted. All the clues to the murderer are there, innocently slipped in and annoying you afterwards when you realise that you should have spotted their significance much earlier. In fact I had the same feeling that I've had when I've finished a Donna Leon novel and realised that I've been had for a sucker almost before I opened the book. Superb.

Set in the mid nineteen sixties, it's refreshing to read a book unburdened by mobile phones or the technology of the twenty-first century. Sally Spencer has the period off perfectly and skilfully avoids any anachronisms. She has the attitudes of the times and of unsophisticated urban Lancashire exactly right. The swinging sixties didn't reach everywhere until much later and she captures the rather mixed attitude of the time to extra-marital activities - and some even stranger relationships including child abuse - exactly as it was.

So, why am I not raving about this book? Well, it's the characters. You can tell that Charlie Woodend is from Lancashire because of his inability to sound a 'g' on the end of any word and because people frequently refer to him as 'Cloggin' it Charlie'. There's no real depth to the man, though. He might be a Chief Inspector but he has a strange reluctance to even mention the subject of adultery in front of two of his officers who have had an affair. Only two characters came over as being three-dimensional - the sadly deceased Bradley Pine and Detective Sergeant Monika Paniatowski with the burden of her Catholic religion which she would so like to leave behind but couldn't.

The book put me in mind of the Harriet Martens books by H R F Keating or the Montague Pluke series from Nicholas Rhea - which is a pity as the plot is so much better. Stronger, grittier characters could have made so much difference.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

If this type of police procedural novel appeals to you then you might like to try some that are slightly off the beaten track. W J Burley began writing in the nineteen seventies and his Wycliffe books can be relied upon for a good read. Clare Curzon produces good stories where it's the strength of the plot which dominates and although not strictly a police procedural you might like to try The Graveyard Position by Robert Barnard.

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