The Mayor of the Yorkshire town of Heckley has invited the daughter of a local landlowner, Ghislaine Curzon, to carry out the unveiling ceremony at the opening of a new shopping mall. The fact that she happens to be dating one of the royal princes, he thinks, could propel him into High Society.
He is naturally somewhat horrified therefore to see the curtain unfold to reveal the word F**K painted in red letters across the inscription on the commemorative plaque.
He does not have long to worry about it, however, as shortly afterwards he is shot dead.
D.I. Charlie Priest is on holiday and already has a case to deal with, burglars armed with a pit a bull terrier, but now he is looking for a graffiti artist and a murderer as well.
His investigations take him into the farmland of East Yorkshire and the world of horse racing where a stable fire long ago, when a horse called Peccadillo died, could be connected to nefarious deals involving the late lamented mayor and the famous lost stallion, Shergar.
Charlie enjoys the opportunity to visit Ghislane at the stately Curzon House, where he befriends her young sister, Toby. And he also offers solace to the mayor’s widow, being a widower himself.
Pawson writes with great affection for, and impressive knowledge of, his native Yorkshire and Charlie Priest is a very agreeable companion to have with you as he relates the progress of his case.
There are many interesting facts about police procedures too, some of them disturbing. For example, a Taser gun puts out 50,000 volts into a suspect as opposed to the electric chair that uses only 3,000 volts. ‘One day we’ll lose someone’, muses Priest.
What marks the book out from the pack most of all is the author’s grasp of language. His similies hit you with startling originality (‘she had a voice like a milkman’s van crossing a cattle grid’), he shows perceptive insight and sympathy into people’s motives and all his characters have rounded personalities.
If you haven’t yet met Charlie Priest, look up Stuart Pawson’s impressive back catalogue where you will find a dozen more adventures about Yorkshire’s most likeable detective.
If ‘Heartbeat’ had not already cornered the television market, Stuart Pawson’s novels would surely be flying the flag for the Yorkshire Dales against the Home Counties’ ubiquitous Midsomer Murders.