Tooth and Claw by Nigel McCrery

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Tooth and Claw by Nigel McCrery

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: More gruesome crimes for synaesthetic policeman Mark Lapslie to investigate. And with a murderer with such intimate knowledge of the game, only he has the ability to make the connections. It's a real attention-holder with exactly the right mix of accuracy and dramatic licence. Bookbag will never look at a garden hose in quite the same way again.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: November 2009
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 1847248071

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Another serial killer is on the loose, and yet again the police have failed to connect the deaths. Carl Whittley has just tortured a glamorous TV presenter to death - leaving a singularly gruesome tableau - and blown a hapless commuter to smithereens at a railway station. He's planning his next murder already, secreted away in the shed at the bottom of the garden of the house he shares with his invalid father. Carl is embittered and lonely - with his mother living away and pursuing a career as a forensic psychologist, there's only him to take care of his severely disabled father: to change the colostomy bag, to cook, to clean, to, well, just to bear it, really.

DCI Mark Lapslie is embittered and lonely too. His wife left him when his synaesthesia took a turn for the worse, and his career has pretty much stalled because of it too. He's holed up in an isolated Essex cottage, trying to keep as much noise out of his life as possible. When you taste sound, human company isn't all it's cracked up to be. His boss has written him off as a liability and so that's why Lapslie gets both the TV presenter and the bombing cases to deal with. The Chief Superindentent hopes the media pressure will be the straw that broke the synaesthete's back and he'll be rid of Lapslie for good.

The Chief Super isn't reckoning on one thing though - the disability that makes him see Lapslie as a dead weight is the very thing that makes him the only detective who will be able to solve this crime...

Tooth and Claw starts right at the very beginning - just as McCrery's other book about Lapslie did - with a murder. We have our answer on page one, and the tension in the book is all wound around discovering the original question - what makes a murderer? Why do people kill? Why does this one kill? I rather like this back-to-front way of doing things, but then I was never a big fan of whodunnits - principally, I suspect, because I never knew whodunnit until the reveal. I'm not a clever woman.

I like Mark Lapslie too - he's world-weary and cynical, as all the best detectives are, and he's also under pressure. He's fighting for his identity and his place in the world just as much as the serial killers he tries to catch. His life is pretty bleak - the arid plain of his life stretched before him up to the horizon of his death: no landmarks, nothing interesting or unknown to look forward to, just flat and featureless stretch of ground that could only be trudged across, step by step, until the end. He needs this case. And luckily for him, this case not only needs his synaesthesia, it needs his doggedness and determination and intelligence too.

The deaths are simply vile and I didn't find any traces of black humour as I did in Core of Evil, so if graphic descriptions aren't your thing, then you may not enjoy Tooth and Claw as much as I did. And even then, I have to say that I'll never look at a garden hose in quite the same way again! It's easy to read and completely absorbing. And as Whittley and Lapslie's paths converge, you'll find yourself guessing about the first victim over and over - I, of course, got it completely wrong. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose!

Recommended for those who like their crime gruesome but credible.

If crime is your thing, then we can recommend Cold in Hand by John Harvey and Bone by Bone by Carol O'Connell. We've also picked out our Top Ten Crime Novels. See if you think we got it right!

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Buy Tooth and Claw by Nigel McCrery at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tooth and Claw by Nigel McCrery at


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