The Night Stalker by Clare Donoghue
|The Night Stalker by Clare Donoghue|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Another tense crime drama from the Lockyer and Bennett stable...out in the countryside away from home turf, there is a little touch of the Midsommer’s about this one but it remains solidly at the harder edge of puzzle solving crime writing. Sharply plotted and page-turningly entertaining.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: August 2016|
|External links: Author's website|
DI Mike Lockyer and his preferred sidekick DS Jane Bennett are back – but this time not on home turf. Lewisham's finest are sent to the country for this outing. There's been a death down in Somerset. It's not the sort of thing you'd expect the regional murder squad to get involved in, it looks like a hit-and-run on a remote road in the Quantocks, probably just some drunk driving a big four-by-four who didn't even know he'd done it.
Strange then, that the word should come from on high that an outsider was wanted to work the case. Odd even that it was a case, in the circumstances. But come the word did and Mike was being despatched to baby-sit the locals. Only he wasn't allowed to tell them that he'd effectively been asked to take over. Leading a murder enquiry without the authority to come out and say that's what you're doing isn't the easiest of tasks, especially when the local DI in charge is very clear that he doesn't think there's anything to investigate.
Which might just explain why there hasn't been a whole lot of investigation done by the time Lockyer & Bennett hit the scene The semi-official reason for their presence – not to be disclosed to anyone – is that there are questions about the competency of the local DI, something about a former case…not a lot of detail, but it probably isn't relevant… probably…
Lockyer quickly finds that the local team aren't particularly enamoured of their boss, who turns out not to be all that local himself. It's a scattered rural community and people aren't talking very much – but what they aren't saying is as telling as what they are. Much of what they are saying harks back centuries to local legends around John Walford's alleged murder of his wife…is it really coincidence when horrible things happen in the neighbourhood that they tend to be centred on Shervage or Dead Woman's Ditch or Gibbett Hill or Wayland's Pool…places resonating with the evil of the past.
And it turns out a lot more horrible stuff has been happening in these parts very recently while an apparently incompetent copper hasn't bothered to make the connections.
For those following the series, both Lockyer and Bennett are now back on full form. Of course their lives remain complicated – that's now "a given" for British police fiction – but the impact of annoying ex-spouses, over-protective parents / daughters and autistic brothers / sons is kept well in the background here.
I've been a fan of Donoghue's duo from the beginning, and where I've previously managed to dock a star for minor quibbles, I can't do that this time. They are playing it by the book – and so is everyone else. The motivations of the bad guys work, the stresses and strains of those caught on the edges are rational and reasonable – the whole thing just simply works. Mainly, though I'm just happy to see two experienced coppers behaving like experienced coppers and not refugees from a soap opera. It might have taken three novels to get here, but this could now settle into a longish series, without stretching the bounds of credibility more than is required for the genre.
In a way this is a 'country house mystery' updated for the 21st century. It's not quite 'closed room' but it does have the claustrophobic feel of the limited number of possible perpetrators, and its tightly plotted enough for you to find motives enough for each of them. At the 'crime' rather than the 'thriller' end of the spectrum it still manages to throw in a few fairly tense scenes with uncertain outcomes to keep you turning the pages.
Well-crafted, well-charactered, self-contained suspense, with a satisfying conclusion. More please!
You can read more book reviews or buy The Night Stalker by Clare Donoghue at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Night Stalker by Clare Donoghue at Amazon.com.
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