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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Savage Moon. Chris Simms. Orion Books (2007)


A very engaging police procedural with a superbly constructed plot and a very well realised cast. A woman is found mauled to death on Saddleworth Moor, near Manchester. A rouge big cat is suspected and the evidence supports the idea. When a man is killed in a similar fashion at a gay rendezvous, DI Jon Spicer is assigned to the case. While the investigation does reveal a lot about the lives of the victims, there is no apparent connection between them nor any evidence that it was murder. The plot develops strongly as the investigation continues and the threads begin to tie together in a grim and very effective fashion, leading to a surprising and hard hitting conclusion.
In addition to the excellent plot Chris Simms has taken two threadbare genre staples and given them a very welcome breath of life. DI Spicer has a domestic problem, his wife is a new mother and does not appear to be coping well. The issue and impact of post natal depression is handled with care, the struggle to manage domestic and professional demands with a male character in the vise is deftly done. In addition Spicer has conflicts with superiors at work, this too is handled well, organisational pressures, ambition and differing agendas are the context rather than stupidity. The mix of the two is very well drawn together as well as the escalating pressure of the investigation.
Chris Simms pulls of a major reveal that has the potential to unbalance the book and topple the reader out of the story with elegant skill. A lengthy exposition is given a clever context and tension that neatly tie it to the story and feels natural. This is a very well written novel that pushes the boundaries of the genre while scrupulously respecting them,a pleasure.

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