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Friday, July 24, 2015

Talking to the Dead. Harry Bingham. Orion Books ( 2012)

An entertaining and enjoyable crime story. When a woman and her young daughter are murdered in a flat in Cardiff, Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths is involved in the investigation and finds that threads from another, apparently unrelated cases, start to lead back to the murder victims. The investigation  unfolds with thoughtful care and a very nasty story emerges that arrives at a very satisfactory and brutal conclusion. This is a first person narrative by Fiona Griffiths and is as much concerned with her as it is with the crime, the two story threads weave together very naturally and the conclusion of the personal story is as satisfying as the criminal one.
Harry Bingham place Fiona Griffiths very much front and centre for the story, all the rest of the cast are as seen by Fiona. This works because Fiona is a very engaging character, there is a nice self-awareness as well as a mix of confidence and self-doubt that makes the narrative just a little unreliable and all the better for it. Fiona's judgement of others are contrasted nicely with their actions so the reader is given a chance to assess the rest of the cast a bit more on their own terms. No other cast member emerges quite as clearly as Fiona, they are still vivid and full of life, demanding attention from the reader. In particular the victims get an opportunity to reveal themselves much more than might be anticipated and in a very credible way within the context of the story.
The investigation is competent and effectively managed by a senior officer who is capable and observant, Fiona's fellow officers are professional and thoughtful. The plot mechanics are nicely revealed and the way that the threads are pulled together is sharp and effective.
What is most striking about the book is the way that the balance between Fiona's story and the demands of the crime story are so well balanced. Fiona is living at a remove from the normal context of living, the impact of this on her work and relationships wraps around the investigation without ever compromising it. The reason for this situation is carefully revealed and handled. The distance is an advantage and a disadvantage at different times in different contexts and the depth of the story. Fiona, having a fractured life can grasp the fractured lives of others a bit more closely.
A thoughtful crime story with a very memorable lead character
that does not sell either short, well worth reading.

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