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by Ewart Hutton
Blue Door, February 2012
320 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 000739117X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In a genre where a surprising number of policemen seem to be called Jack, it makes a refreshing change to encounter something with a little more originality. Glyn Capaldi, half-Welsh and half-Italian, is used to working in the big city–or in his case, Cardiff–and while it isn't London, it did still provide cases more challenging than sheep-worrying and disputes between farmers. But Capaldi has blotted his copy book and has been exiled to the hills and valleys of mid-Wales.

As a result, he's bored and resentful, and doesn't bother to slow down on his way home when he passes a parked-up police car, deciding that pulling rank will be more fun. His night livens up even more when he tags along on their next call: to talk to the driver of a minibus whose passengers have driven off leaving him stranded. The minibus is found abandoned with no sign of the six men who were being driven home. It's a freezing cold night and Capaldi decides to call in a helicopter to aid the search.

The men are eventually discovered on the way back from a night in a cabin in the woods, but where as six men set out, only five returned, and no one apart from Capaldi seems interested in the fact. In addition, no one appears to be interested in the fate of a female hitchhiker that they'd picked up at a service station. Capaldi decides to dig a little deeper on both counts and it soon becomes clear that this doesn't find much favour with either his superiors or the villagers whose lives he has started poking around in.

In a genre where just about everything has been done before, including the choice of names, it becomes increasingly hard to produce original characters and different settings, but Ewart Hutton manages both with impressive ease. My first inclination was to describe the book as a cross between Frost and Simon Pegg's hilarious film Hot Fuzz and that didn't change by the time I'd finished what proved to be one of the most interesting and enjoyable crime books I've read for a long time.

The Welsh setting is entertainingly authentic, both in the descriptions of the countryside and in the rich array of characters that inhabit it. Capaldi is a wryly entertaining narrator, aware of his own shortcomings – and those of others – and not afraid to bend the rules, but he never strays so far into maverick territory as to be implausible. The plot was intricate, but unfolded skilfully, with everything coming together in a way that held my interest throughout. The story was handled with considerable style and it has certainly left me looking forward to Capaldi's next outing. As first novels go, this one will be very hard to beat.

§ Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, January 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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