Little Bones by Sam Blake
|Little Bones by Sam Blake|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: An assured debut bringing us a new Irish cop in the shape of kick-boxing champion, Detective Garda Cat Connolly. Newly and unexpectedly pregnant she's got a couple of unexpected deaths and a fugitive killer having to take priority over her own problems. Tightly plotted and believably policed, we'll allow the dramatic licence needed to make it work. It is one that will keep you turning the pages.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: February 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
It was a fairly ordinary break in. A young artist's home had been given a going over, but it was hard to see that much had been taken. There were suspicions that it might have been one of the usual suspects, only the shoes weren't as they'd have expected to find them if that was to be the case. Something else was not as you might expect to find it: a wedding dress, an old heirloom piece by the look of it, and in the hem, stitched in there, tiny bones. Human bones.
The victim, artist Zoe Grant, seems to be alone in the world. She's got her life fairly well sorted for all that. She tells people that she works in a flower shop – until they treat that disrespectfully at which point she confirms that she's a sculptor in flowers – four or five dimensions: the normal three, plus colour, plus scent. And she's good. There's film work and magazine shoots and high society weddings as well as the little local stuff. Even so, this is just one facet of her art. At heart she's a painter. Seascapes largely. Largely because she's terrified of the water, though she doesn't know why.
She might be earning her own living her own way, but she comes from money. The grandmother that she really doesn't want the Garda to call, is Lavinia Grant. THE Lavinia Grant, of Grant Valentine… doyenne of a very successful business. When the guards turn up at her mansion in any event, she's found dead.
Neither Detective Garda Cathy Connolly, nor her DI, believe in co-incidences.
Besides there are echoes of a case from decades before, the handling of which did not reflect well on the force. This time they've got to get it right.
It doesn't help that they've got another problem on their hands. A Hispanic American seems to have shot his father, killed another person seemingly purely to steal their ID and made his way to Dublin. The FBI are on his tail, but clearly they need local help.
Just another day at the office!
The kind of day that normally Cat Connolly would be relishing. Just at the moment though, she's hyper-sensitive to sounds and smells, she's vomiting rather a lot (not just in the morning), struggling to eat, she's tired. She is unexpectedly expecting! Telling the putative father seems to be the least of her concerns, first of all she's got to figure out how to tell her boss, and her trainer. Full-contact kick-boxing probably isn't the best sport for a mother-to-be. First of all she's got to figure out what she wants.
Time to think would be called for. Time she doesn't have. Zoe may have been stalked before the break-in. Is Lavinia's death from natural causes as it appears? And exactly who is half-drunk journalist that seems to share the house? Never mind trying to keep a man-hunt under the press-radar.
Meanwhile, as they say, in another place… Tony and Emily have moved from the U.S. to live in London for a while. He's a consultant psychiatrist, and she's an OT and they're newly settled in Bethnal Green. Unhappily childless, she has a tendency to take in waifs and strays. The cats Tony can just about cope with, but when an old woman is mugged in the local market, there seems to be more to her than meets the eye, and Emily isn't willing to abandon her to a system that seems to be failing her.
The social commentary (modern and historical) is slipped in between the lines for the most part. It can't be ignored, because societal mores of the times provide the framework on which the story has to hang. Stated explicitly on occasion, not with condemnation, but just as observatory fact (this is how it was, this is how it is), it's never allowed to intrude on the story. The story is good old fashioned murder mystery writing.
Whilst violence continues to lurk in the wings, death mostly occurs off-screen, and we are concerned with figuring out the who, what, why, where and when of it all.
The Dublin and London ends of the story play out in parallel and so the connections are obvious fairly early, but Blake still manages to keep the devil in the detail hidden for quite a long time.
Like all of the best crime writing, it is readable because it is believable. It is believable because the police procedural isn't over-played, the fewer details on that score we're given, the less opportunity to say they'd never do that. That said, I'm sure those in the know would draw in the occasional breath through the teeth as the normal marks are over-stepped (like real police-people never ever do) – but it feels realistic enough in that things take the time they take, not all resources are available locally and so on. And there is a fair amount of bluff going on when questioning witnesses and suspects. Naturally.
Of course the timescale is shortened – dramatic necessity – from what would play out in the real world, so that the plot can rattle along at page-turning pace.
Personally I would prefer not to have the jeopardy-removing introducing Cat Connolly on the cover (ok, whatever else, she survives this!) but it seems to be the way of the world now that you cannot have a detective solve a case, you have to have a whole career lined up for him or her. Those four words make the final couple of chapters totally redundant to my way of thinking, but up until then, I loved it.
It might just be the English in me, but one of the things I love about the Irish is that they do have a fabulous way with words: a wonderfully picturesque turn of phrase that always makes me smile. A suspect wearing a silk trouser suit, a murky no-colour somewhere between vomit and peanut butter. A school gym rank with sweat and smelly training shoes, with ambition and self-consciousness and fatigue, and the dull ache of homesickness. Gorgeous!
Tightly plotted, believably charactered and told with style – what more can you want?
A great debut.
You can read more book reviews or buy Little Bones by Sam Blake at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Little Bones by Sam Blake at Amazon.com.
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