Skip to main content

BOOK REVIEW: Stop Dead - Leigh Russell

  
The opening of Leigh Russell’s Stop Dead finds Inspector Geraldine Steel recently installed in a north London homicide team. Far from Kent and her familiar turf, Steel is yet to finish unpacking the moving crates that litter her new flat. It’s a new start all round: new gaff, new job, new colleagues and the twists of turns of the new office’s sexual politics to negotiate.
‘She hadn’t realised how lonely she was in London. But there was no time to question the sense in driving two hours to meet a friend for a drink.’
 
To top it all, there’s a murder to solve. Patrick Henshaw, owner of a swish Soho restaurant has been found brutally murdered at the wheel of his Merc on the Caledonian Road. As Steel negotiates the opening stages of the case with her new Detective Sergeant, Sam (Samantha) Haley in tow, she needs to find her feet, and fast. When Henshaw’s business partner is murdered in the same horrific manner, Steel is under pressure.
 
If there isn't trouble enough, a scene of crime DNA sample implicates a woman who has been in prison for twenty years, and another who has been dead for two years, Steel and Haley find themselves clutching at straws with a killer on the loose and notching up the body count.
 
In a crime fiction market littered with emotionally bruised DIs with more hang-ups than Woody Allen’s coat rack, Geraldine Steel sticks out as a believable copper. Homesickness and a family hiccup from the discovery of her status as an adoptee aside, Steel moves methodically from scene to scene searching for the clue that picks the crime apart.
There are the usual cast of police-pro characters, a brassy griefless widow and her toy-boy lover, a spiky young pathologist, a brusque guv’nor, grubby witnesses and a French chef who arrives direct from central casting in time for some light relief.
 
Stop Dead rattles along apace. There is something of a mid-story dip, but for the most part the narrative unfolds with reveals a-plenty. The fifth in the series of Russell’s Geraldine Steel novels – the first, Cut Short was nominated for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for first novel – it flows easily on the stream of investigative minutiae. Leigh Russell’s research is evident and she confidently steers Steel and Sam Haley along their investigative path.
 
And it is Steel who carries us through. Frequently uncertain of herself, it’s her apparent fallibility which is Stop Dead’s strongest suit. But when push comes to shove, Geraldine Steel takes her chances and gets the job done.
 
Stop Dead by Leigh Russell is published by No Exit and is available on kindle – paperback to follow in May 2013.

 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

LEGACY OF BRIT NOIR – BLOODY SCOTLAND POSTSCRIPT

I was lucky enough to join the exodus north to the glorious city of Stirling last weekend for the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival for the panel, The Legacy of Brit Noir. Joining novelists Cathi Unsworth and Harry Brett and ably directed and moderated by crime writer, Douglas Skelton, the conversation was free-flowing and the audience ready to engage with the discussion at Q&A time. All in all a fantastic weekend with some interesting and thought provoking debate, great scenery, a healthy dose of end of the pier entertainment, and a few beers with old and new friends.
For the most part, the Brit Noir panel covered ground we knew well: in brief, an attempt to define noir in the US and European tradition, how the genre in Britain emerges from an influx of European artists, writers and film makers in the 1930s and 40s and, similarly, blacklisted writers and film makers forced to leave the US in the 1950s. The noir sensibility, particularly of the film-makers, permeates Britis…
Life writing, memoir, autobiography. However you describe it, sometimes you just want to tell your story. Or to know how to make the most of the life story of someone you know. Writing nonfiction, particularly when you're so close to the subject, can be a daunting task. The idea behind these workshops, delivered in partnership with the Lil Drama Company at PAD Studios, is to demystify the writing process, to give participants the techniques and tools to enable them to approach their writing with confidence. In many ways, traditional history tends to focus on the momentous; but now, arguably more than ever, everyday life experiences of people are the places we go to hear the truth. I'd hope that over the three weeks of workshops participants can work towards finding their voice, bringing together memory and history to make sense of their own experiences, framing them on the page in a way that communicates and gives us all a greater understanding. For more info on this, Dave Wind…

Paris in the Dark - Robert Olen Butler

Paris 1915, the United States’ entry to the First World War is eighteen months away. President Woodrow Wilson is committed to keeping America out of the war. Christopher Marlowe ‘Kit’ Cobb, American correspondent for the Chicago Post-Express and undercover agent for the US government, is resident in the city, ostensibly to tell the story of the volunteer American ambulance drivers helping the war effort, their nightly convoys ferrying French wounded to the city’s hospitals. With war raging, the city’s morale on the verge of collapse and French authorities desperate to maintain control, Cobb the spy is assigned to investigate a wave of bombings of civilian targets. In the wake of one blast, he returns to pay his Café bill. His waiter catches the prevailing mood: ‘“The Barbarians,” he said. Meaning the Germans. “They are among us.”’ Suspicion falls on infiltrators among the refugees streaming into Paris from Alsace, northern France and Belgium. Cobb picks up the bombers' trail, nav…