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by Roger Silverwood
Robert Hale, January 2010
222 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 0709089015

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In SHRINE TO MURDER, the fifteenth book in the Inspector Angel series, DI Michael Angel is confronted with two murders. It very quickly becomes apparent that he and his team are dealing with a serial killer. Upon further investigation Angel discovers the link between the victims, and realises that while he does not know who the murderer is, he does know who the further victims are likely to be. His task therefore is not just to identify the killer, but also to prevent any further loss of life.

This is the second in the Angel series which I have read and reviewed, and once again it is necessary to start with a catalogue of weaknesses. The characterisation is paper-thin and tends to the stereotypical; the dialogue is heavy-handed and sometimes absurd; the sociological observation is fairly minimal and very out of date. In connection with the latter, the only sub-narrative in this book concerns Angel's horror that he has been assigned a female sergeant, as he does not believe a woman has any place as a Detective Sergeant. There are times when one reads this book when one is not sure whether the whole thing is not some kind of elaborate joke. This is especially true whenever reference is made, as it is repeatedly, to Angel's fame as the man with the same reputation as the Mounties for always getting his man. However I am sure that obscure post-modern irony is not the author's intention!

Not only does the book have no intellectual or emotional weight of any kind; it is also not really funny or witty despite the evidence of one or two, and I mean the number literally, nice phrases. Now these elements are by no means necessary requirements for a good mystery. But their absence demands, more than ever, a good plot. In WILD ABOUT HARRY there was at least a fascinating initial premise and a multiplicity of plot-lines: here there is a single plot-line, the pursuit of which never really sparks the interest. The revelation, when it comes, is clearly meant to be the book's coup de grace, and while it is perfectly well conceived in a Golden Age type way it does not really surprise or shock. The reader has not really been taken in because the information necessary to the revelation is not contained in anything earlier in the book and only emerges with the investigation. There is no real sleight-of-hand or deception in terms of cleverly misleading us.

Despite all these many failings SHRINE TO MURDER has two redeeming qualities which prevent it being a truly bad book. First it does not take itself too seriously. And secondly it is extremely readable. Certainly one needs to suspend one's critical faculties, but if one does this a pleasant enough couple of hours may be whiled away. I would not recommend that anyone buy this book, but as a choice from your local library it is a reasonable way to pass a rainy afternoon.

Nick Hay lives in Birmingham, UK where he spends a lot of his time reading mysteries (and trying to write about them).

Reviewed by Nick Hay, August 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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