Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.
The blurb on the back of this novel promises two interlinked crimes – one from today and one from the infamous Cable Street riots of 1936. The link is DI Will Wagstaffe (Staffe to most of his friends and associates). Staffe is your basic troubled cop and the the protagonist of Creed’s series of novels set primarily in the City of London, with stops in such places as Spain and Sicily.
The crime of “today” is the kidnapping of one Carmelo Trapani, a financially well-off London resident - so moneyed indeed the home he is abducted from is dubbed Palazzo Trapani. The kidnapping, we learn along with Staffe, may or not link back to villainous pre-World War II-doings when the Trapanis were penniless immigrants to London.
The third layer to Kill and Tell is a holdover from an earlier Staffe novel in which his colleague DS Pulford is cooling his heels in Pentonville, due to be tried for the murder of one Jadus Golding. Staffe is, according to the blurb, torn between his current role in the Trapani case and his sense of duty to Pulford. This reader did not really buy into that conflict, however. Nothing about it felt urgent or taut. A surprise because Suffer the Children, Staffe’s first outing, was to this reader compelling and terrifying and all the things a gruesome cop novel should be.
The narrative flipping from past to present and back again is an oft used device in the crime genre. It can work beautifully with the reader on tenterhooks over two or more periods. Sadly in Kill and Tell, the device seemed more confusing than helpful We got bogged down in the various details of the plot strands and none individually was strong enough to make up for weaknesses elsewhere.
One very lovely element of the tale is Creed's take on the Big Smoke. He knows London so well and uses his knowledge of the City (Creed previously worked in finance) beautifully and at times lyrically. This reviewer works in London connected easily to such passages as “The City has a ring of invisible portals like so many railway arches to different dimensions. Perversely you can pass easily from shiny to dark.”
Kill and Tell may very well suffer from trying to tell too darn much. The busy-ness does not kill the story by any means but a leaner approach is to be hoped for in volume six of the Staffe series.