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Ian McFadyen

DEATH IN WINTER … Between the covers

AUTHOR
This is the sixth novel
in Ian McFadyen’s popular series featuring DI Steve Carmichael. We pick up the story just a few days before Christmas, and rural Lancashire has been hit with weather conditions which may be delightfully seasonal for children counting down the sleeps until The Big Day, but for tired coppers trying to find a missing woman, the thick snow is just a hindrance.

diwHayley Bell has not returned home after a night out with some lady friends, and husband Duncan is seriously concerned. Mr Bell is a disagreeably pompous fellow with some serious affectations, such as calling four rooms in his grand house after the seasons, and decorating them accordingly. Carmichael and his team, however, have no reason to suspect Duncan Bell – despite his unpleasant manner – of having anything to do with his wife’s disappearance.

CCTV footage from the railway station where Hayley Bell said goodbye to her friends on the fateful night sheds no light on the affair. In fact, the images pose a conundrum similar to a locked room mystery. Hayley Bell boarded the train, but apparently never left it. As Carmichael interviews the other members of Hayley Bell’s Reading Club, he begins to suspect that their activities may have involved something other than deciding upon the Book of The Month.

Meanwhile, chez Carmichael has been blessed with the arrival of his self-centred and ancient Aunt Audrey, but he secretly says a prayer to the gods when an astonishing development in the search for Hayley Bell – and a murder – enable him to get away from home and back to the relative sanity of the police station. The Aunt Audrey situation provides a gentle humorous counterpoint to the increasingly dark and sinister theme of the Hayley Bell disappearance.

Eventually, just as matters are being wrapped up, despite Carmichael’s misgivings that they are missing something crucial, a chance remark by the dreadful Audrey, after she has been earwigging on a private conversation between Carmichael and his wife, removes the scales from the Inspector’s eyes, and he recalls his team from their turkey sandwiches and games of Scrabble to bring about a dramatic solution to the case.

Detective Inspector-led police procedurals are two a penny in British crime fiction, so why did I enjoy this one so much? Firstly the book sticks to the three classical unities of action, place and – even if it is stretched beyond Aristotle’s recommended 24 hours – time. The whole thing is nicely wrapped up over the days immediately before and after Christmas. There is a pleasant old fashioned atmosphere about the story, even though it is obviously the present day, and even one of the murder weapons comes straight off the Cluedo board.

Lovers of serial killing, dismembered corpses, misanthropic coppers with shattered personal lives and a drink problem will have to look elsewhere for their entertainment. Those who like a good whodunnit with credible characters, a wintry atmosphere where the snow crackles beneath the feet and an ingenious plot should enjoy Death In Winter as much as I did. It’s published by The Book Guild, and is available in paperback and Kindle.

ON MY SHELF …26th November 2016

oms-25-november
Death In Winter by Ian McFadyen
There’s always room for yet another fictional Detective Inspector. Steve Carmichael – a long standing member of the DI’s trade union – returns for his sixth case set, as before, in the villages and small towns of rural Lancashire. The boxes are all steadily being ticked for a wonderful traditional Christmas in the Carmichael family home. Deep snow all around? Tick. Just four days to go? Tick. Tree and decorations up? Tick. Pressies all bought? Tick. No urgent cases down at the nick? …… Oh, wait. Hayley Bell vanishes after taking a train home. Her husband and friends are decidedly odd, and there’s a definite whiff of murder souring the scent of mince pies and mulled wine. Death In Winter is just out, and you can check options here.

Mercy Killing by Lisa Cutts
The author needs no researchers to check up on correct police procedure – she is still a serving officer herself, so expect unvarnished authenticity in this tale of the death of a sex offender. To the echoes of, “He had it coming..” and “Serves him right, the dirty bastard..” from the local community, the East Rise police must grit their teeth and investigate the suspicious death of Albie Woodville with just as much tenacity as if he had been a pillar of the community. DI Harry Powell keeps his team on their mettle, but all the officers are disturbed and shocked by the secrets they uncover as they search for the killer. Follow the link to see buying options for Mercy Killing

Blackout by Marc Elsberg
This has been around in one form or another since 2012, but since it is billed as “a 21st century high-concept disaster thriller”, it is probably safe to assume that the latest edition has been made future-proof. Elsberg (aka Marcus Rafelsberger) was born in Vienna, and after training as an industrial designer worked as a strategy consultant and creative director in the advertising world. Blackout has a simple but rather scary premise. Quite simply, hackers decide to shut down Europe. They start in Milan, with the electricity grid. Then they rack up the attacks further afield. Half the continent is plunged into darkness while  people freeze and struggle to find food and water. Elsberg turns this nightmare scenario into an entertaining but disturbing thriller. Check Blackout on Amazon.

In Too Deep by Samantha Hayes
From trans-continental cyber meltdown to a psychological thriller on a smaller scale, but equally as terrifying. When your husband takes a stroll down the road to buy a newspaper, you think nothing of it. But when he has been gone an hour, then twelve hours, then a day, it is obvious that something sinister has happened. So it is with Gina and Rick. Rick has been gone four months, and as well as coping with daughter Hannah’s emotional problems, Gina has become numb with acceptance. But then a mysterious ‘phone call turns her life on its head, and she makes a decision which threatens to have fatal consequences. In Too Deep came out in Kindle earlier this year, but will be available in paperback just before Christmas. Check the details here.

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