OMS July 17

S5 Uncovered by James Durose-Rayner
Top of the pile is the monumental S5 Uncovered. Running to 899 pages, it is a detailed account of a police undercover operation which, if the book is too be believed, should have become a national scandal. The author is a journalist, and he tells the tale of the last days of Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency, SOCA,  before being reborn as the National Crime Agency in 2013. At the heart of a long and complex tale is a huge money-making exercise to boost the finances of The Police Federation, the coppers’ trade union which represents officers from Constables up to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector. The Proceeds of Crime Act (2002) was intended to confiscate money and goods retained by criminals who had been convicted and jailed. In this instance huge amounts of cash and goods were taken from Sheffield gangsters, and transferred to the coffers of TPF. The author says that a BBC Panorama film about the scam was made, but never broadcast. S5 Uncovered is available now.

A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward
Sarah Ward introduced us to Derbyshire policeman Inspector Francis Sadler in her 2015 novel, In Bitter Chill. Now, she continues the weather metaphor with a murder mystery where not only the perpetrator is unknown but so, it transpires, is the victim. This a police procedural set in Ward’s home county of Derbyshire, and it concerns the 2004 murder of a man called Andrew Fisher. His wife, Lena, is convicted of his killing, and serves 12 years behind bars. You only die once, they say, but in 2016, with Lena Fisher once again free, the corpse of a man identified as Andrew Fisher is found in a disused mortuary. Sadler and his team face their biggest challenge to discover the truth behind the curtain of lies ad deception. A Deadly Thaw is available as a Kindle and in print versions.

Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds
Charlie Yates is a bitter and disillusioned journalist in post WW2 America. Are there any sweetly optimistic ones, I wonder? If there are, they are not in Charlie’s friendship circle. In the book prior to this one, The Dark Inside, Charlie was involved in a noir-ish tale of death and corruption on the border between Texas and Arkansas. Having sought temporary solace in the more laid-back surroundings of California, he is now back in the land of moonshine, chewing baccy and denim cover-alls, when an old friend is desperate for his help. You might be surprised to learn that, for a writer who can so vividly recreate the menace and skin prickle of a hot Southern night, Rod Reynolds is a confirmed Londoner. Black Night Falling will be out in August on Kindle, and in the spring of 2017 in print.

Homo Superiors by L.A. Fields
Fields takes one of the most infamous murder cases of the 20th century, and reshapes it with a modern ambience. In 1924 Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two bored and wealthy Chicago students kidnapped and killed a 14 year-old boy, Robert Franks. The killers, dazzled by their own perceived intellectual superiority, and their admiration for the  writings of Nietzsche, were convinced that they they had committed the perfect crime. Of course, they hadn’t, but they escaped the death penalty after a trial where they were defended by the celebrated lawyer, Clarence Darrow. In Fields’ version, we are still in Chicago, but she explores the brittle intellectual pretensions of Ray and Noah, as they make the same errors as their real-life counterparts. Homo Superiors is available as a Kindle or a paperback from Amazon.

Investigating Mr Wakefield by Rob Gittins
The Welsh publishers Y Lolfa have carved a niche for themselves as publishers of all kinds of books in the Welsh language, but they also an impressive list of Welsh authors who write in English. One such is Rob Gittins, a TV screenwriter by trade. His debut novel, Gimme Shelter, was a brutal and no-holds-barred account of a Witness Protection officer who locks horns with a fiendish serial killer. In his latest book, he moves away from the world of police investigations, and into the thorny world of personal relationships, and what happens when one obsessive man begins to suspect that his partner is deceiving him. As a former war photographer, Jack Connolly is on intimate terms with the details of death, but when he turns his meticulous sharp focus on someone to whose life he has intimate access, the results are terrifying. You can get Investigating Mr Wakefield from the publisher, or from Amazon.

As a delightful bonus, the people at Y Lolfa also sent me the latest book by Dr Jonathan Hicks. I had reviewed – and enjoyed – two previous books by the academic and historian, The Dead of Mametz and Demons Walk Among Us. Both featured investigations by a Military Policeman, Thomas Oscendale. Now, on the centenary of the Battle of The Somme, Hicks has produced an account of a military action which has come to be synonymous with the memory of Welsh soldiers who took part. The Welsh at Mametz Wood, Somme 1916 is the story of the 20,000 men of the 38th Welsh Division. They were all volunteers, poorly trained and inadequately led for the massive task of evicting experienced German troops from the heavily fortified wood. They eventually succeeded, at a terrible cost, and Hicks seeks to put the record straight about an event over which, at the time, the 38th Division received much criticism. Below – Mametz Wood, then and now.