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by Graham Hurley
Orion, January 2013
368 pages
16.99 GBP
ISBN: 1409131521

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Sergeant Jimmy Suttle is chasing his dream of a rural idyll, having made a move down to Exmouth in Devon, away from the inner city crime in the Pompey district of Portsmouth. But whilst Suttle is deeply in love with his ramshackle house in the middle of nowhere, his former journalist wife, Lizzie, isn't so enamoured of country life, and she's the one stuck there all day with their baby daughter in the rain, with nowhere to walk other than muddy country lanes, at risk from passing traffic.

In Exmouth, a property developer, the ostentatiously rich Jake Kinsey had fallen to the death from the balcony of his expensive waterfront flat. As he'd retired to bed drunk after an impromptu party with friends from his rowing club, accident seems as likely an explanation as any, but in the time-honoured manner of fictional policeman everywhere, Suttle has a hunch that there might be more to the man's death than meets the eye.

It's not long before Graham Hurley gets the plot in a headlock and shoves its arm up its back in a way that would have drawn admiring glances from many an old-style copper. Suttle persuades his wife that what she really needs to do to solve her problems with living on a rain-soaked moor is get more exercise, and what better way to do that than take up rowing. You get my drift…

The somewhat forced plot thickens further when Lizze gets close to someone in the rowing club, a man whose wife disappeared over the side of their two-man boat near the end of their attempt to row across the Atlantic. And while Suttle is ploughing a seemingly rather lonely furrow with the investigation into Jake Kinsey's death, his marriage is put under further strain by the reappearance of some of Pompey's criminals in his life, demanding to know the whereabouts of a former colleague of his, a corrupt copper who sold out his former associates and then did a runner abroad.

As police procedurals go, this one is on fairly solid – albeit somewhat pedestrian – ground in terms of both characterisation and plot, and I was pleased to see that there were at least some stereotypical elements that he stayed clear of. I was both pleased and relieved to see that the family pet survived unscathed, something that is almost guaranteed never to happen when an author makes a seemingly casual mention of a cat or a dog!

I felt the ending was rather on the predictable side, but then that's not always a bad thing. As the start of a series, I've certainly encountered far worse. But if the Suttle family do stay near Exmouth, I think Jimmy is going to have to work a bit harder to keep his marriage intact.

§ 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 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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