The Winter Visitor by James Henry

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The Winter Visitor by James Henry

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Slow to get going but a complex plot for those prepared to invest the time. A good read covering some unsettling topics.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: February 2024
Publisher: riverrun
ISBN: 978-1529431735

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It's February 1991 and Essex is bitingly cold, which made Bruce Hopkins' return all the more surprising. He'd been exiled on the Costa del Sol as a wanted drug smuggler for a decade. The return has come about because he's had a letter from his ex-wife, saying that she's ill and hasn't long to live. It's hard to feel any sympathy when Hopkins is abducted, stripped to his underwear and sent to a watery grave in the boot of a stolen Ford Sierra. Is it a warning from a Spanish gang or a problem closer to home?

DS Daniel Kenton and DS Julian Brazier are case-sharing on this one - along with the arson at a remote Norman church and the surprising death of an ageing florist. Is there a thread which connects them? Of course there is - but it's deeply entangled and will take some sorting out. To add to the difficulty, it will have to be done without the support of Superintendent Watt, whose interest in justice seems to revolve around whether or not there's a benefit to himself. Kenton and Brazier are chalk and cheese but the unlikely pairing produces benefits.

It's more than a decade since I first encountered James Henry when I was tempted into reading his continuation of R D Wingfield's Frost novels. I was convinced that he had a real ability to produce a great plot and an ear for character. The Winter Visitor is the first of his writing that I've encountered which isn't related to Frost.

If you're looking for fast action, then this might not be the book for you. It takes a little while to establish the characters and the Essex countryside but pay attention as this is one of the most complex plots I've met in a long time. I'd a lot of sympathy with - and admiration of - Kenton and Brazier as there wasn't a lot to go on. A dead drug smuggler who's not been around Colchester for a decade wasn't going to cause a lot of excitement. Only the vicar seemed to be worried about the fire damage to the church and the florist's suicide seemed to be just that - the suicide of a man past his prime.

It was fascinating to look back at the nineties. Women barely figured in the police force and Care in the Community was just emerging - and the flaws were already visible. Only just becoming visible were the effects of child abuse which had been hidden for years. It's a good, thought-provoking read if you're willing to invest the time to get into the story.

I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

You might also enjoy Nothing Sacred by David Thorne or The Dark Room by Lisa Gray.

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