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Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Murder Bag. Tony Parsons. Arrow Books (2014)

An enjoyable and entertaining crime story. A man is murdered in his office in his office on Detective Constable Max Wolfe's first day with the Murder team. The investigation  becomes complicated with the public updates posted by the killer which greatly increase the pressure on the investigation. A second murder points the investigation to a clearer line of enquiry and the investigation starts to uncover a shared and violent past that has caught up with those involved. The plot unwinds nicely, the investigation is thoughtful and professional, the reveals are very well staged and the set up at the start pays of substantially at the end.
Tony Parsons deftly sidesteps the major clich├ęs of the genre. Max Wolfe is a single parent with a young daughter and no notable addictive or self destructive tendencies. He is quietly competent and has a hot temper which he keeps under control and a willingness to pursue an idea. He does clash with a superior, not because she is absurdly stupid or incompetent but because Max Wolfe can be a problem to a senior police officer with a high profile case and a strong desire to retain her career trajectory. The officer that Max directly works for is calm, smart and capable, this gives the investigation a strong basis and allows the plot unwind without having to rely on any character being massively smarter or stupider than the rest. All of the cast are given voices of their own and emerge as sharp, defined characters who want the readers attention.
The plot mechanics are very well done, the major elements are used very effectively and then tied together in a satisfying way. In particular a crucial piece of information is delivered in a very smart set up that also ties a lot of plot threads together at the same time. One plot thread that did not quite come off is one that lay deep at the roots of the murders, the situation itself was credible, the way the long term results were handled by those involved did not quite come off . It does not imbalance the story, it does muffle the impact a bit.
With an interesting cast and a solid plot the book fails to entirely engage, there is a slight lack at the heart of the story. It does not quite bite hard enough, revenge is more personal, the bitter desire is given to the wrong character. It is entirely necessary for them, it is also necessary for another who is just a little too far from the motive and too close to the action  to carry it off without more direct roots in the blood or palpable rage.

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