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HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN
by Derek Raymond
Melville, September 2011
211 pages
$14.95
ISBN: 1935554573


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's March in London, a cold and rainy evening rush hour, when the murder of Charles Locksley Alwin Staniland is given to the Detective Sergeant of A14, the Unexplained Deaths division. Charles Staniland died a slow and painful death, aware until the very end of what was happening and going to happen to him. The Detective Sergeant (DS) gets the case because he is the only policeman in A14, "the most unpopular and shunned branch of the service." His job is to solve the "obscure, unimportant, apparently irrelevant deaths of people who don't matter and who never did." Staniland is a middle-aged man with no dependants, a drunk who lives by driving other people and their goods around. Not a high profile case.

As the DS follows the few leads he has, he discovers that Staniland really was one of those people nobody notices much. What turns the case around is his discovery of a box of cassette tapes that Staniland recorded. He listens to them in no particular order, because they are not labeled. The tapes reveal more about Staniland than the DS would ever have discovered on his own. They give him places and people to investigate. They are the reason he can solve the case.

Derek Raymond, according to the inside front cover write-up, is considered by many to have been "the founding father of British noir." EYES OPEN is a gritty, well-paced, deftly plotted novel. Although the DS is never named, the reader quickly learns what kind of person he is, how tuned in he is to his surroundings and inner workings. He is completely aware of his own shortcomings and has accepted them. He is almost proud of who he is and what he does, yet he totally understands Staniland and his life journey. EYES OPEN is definitely noir; the final moments are so dreadful and yet to true to the whole rest of the book.

P.J. Coldren lives in northern lower Michigan where she reads and reviews widely across the mystery genre when she isn't working in her local hospital pharmacy.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, November 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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