A former Customs and Police Officer, Andrew Hill is just putting the finishing touches to the first book in a crime series set in the New Forest, where he lived for 30 years. An avid reader across the crime genre and regular at Crimefest, he now lives in West Sussex and works in property.
Stuart Neville’s latest, So Say The Fallen sees the return of DCI Serena Flanagan and presents her with what appears to be an open and shut suicide. The dead man had lost his young and only daughter in a drowning accident some years earlier and then, to pile on the misery, lost his legs in another accident. He had little left to live for and even had the means and opportunity.
But DCI Flanagan, carrying her own dark cloud, isn’t entirely convinced. The author stirs in a Member of the Legislative Assembly who likes to throw his weight around, a senior police officer approaching retirement, a priest with no faith and a faithless wife. This mixture is rich and perplexing.
There’s also an inward looking, lace curtain twitching, small town sensibility wriggling through the heart of the story. But this is no gentle bike ride through the Irish countryside, with a bit of murder on the side. It picks up speed like a boulder rolling downhill. Gradual at first, but then with a gathering momentum that carried this willing reader along.
I’ve a confession to make. I’ve not read any of Stuart Neville’s work before and shame on me for not having done so. The characters are certainly anything but one dimensional and that doesn’t come as a surprise. The author turns them over and over under his microscope, prodding and probing them to reveal the guilt, anger, sadness, or darkness in their souls and reminding us that the public face is rarely the private reality.
Whilst the book might appear to be a standard police procedural at first glance and the author certainly knows his stuff on that count, it’s not what the story lives and dies by. It’s the setting, characters, with Serena Flanagan in particular. You’ll warm to this headstrong, intuitive, outspoken and driven woman. Worrying if her instincts will be proved correct and that the sense of justice that binds her to the job is stronger than fabric of her apparently threadbare and frayed marriage.