Search This Blog

Monday, July 27, 2015

Artefacts of the Dead. Tony Black. Black & White Publishing (2014)

An engaging and very gloomy police procedural. A murder victim is found at a rubbish tip in Ayr in Scotland and Detective Inspector Bob Valentine is called in to head up the investigation. DI Bob Valentine is just back on active duty after a near fatal stabbing, and both he and the Chief Superintendent who assigns him to the investigation have doubts about his capacity to manage the task. The investigation is hampered by the heavy presence of the Chief Superintendent and overly well informed press coverage. When a second murder takes place that is clearly linked to the first the problems increase. The story unfolds well, the reveals are well staged and the plot threads are very well brought together, the conclusion is very satisfying.
The most notable aspect to the story is the all pervasive atmosphere of near depression gloom that weights down on everyone and everything. While the centre of the gloom is Bob Valentine, it seems intrinsic to the whole context of Ayr and possibly to Scotland in general. Bob Valentine has serious grounds for gloom, the stabbing has divided his life into two parts, and the post stabbing existence is both precious and somewhat unreal. Actually being actively involved in his own life beyond the limits of job and duty seem like a task too much for Bob Valentine, yet it is one that he worries at with a constant, mirthless persistence. He leads the investigation with the same unleavened weight of duty, demanding that everyone be cautious and serious about the task, recognising that the work of a police officer is hard and essentially harsh.
The chief superintendent is neither stupid nor incompetent, she is much worse than that, she is perpetually aggressive seeking to strike first at all times to ensure that she is  never on the defensive. She is firmly rooted in the context of Ayr, identified as a particular type of female who act in this way. The emphasis is much more on the context of Ayr than on her being female which is interesting. Tony Black is very even handed with the misery and discomfort for his cast. Everyone comes under the lash at some point, victories are muted by the general weight of the heavy weather that rests on everyone.
The plot mechanics have to work very hard to push against the gravity of the cast and context and they do so successfully. The investigation starts to reveal a bigger and very dark story that slowly and credibly draws others into is grip. The wider cast that are surrounding the investigation are strongly drawn and the tangles of the plot are cunningly set up and then drawn together. The investigation is managed in a competent and thoughtful manner and it finally grinds out a suitably bitter conclusion. Heavy going, worth reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment