Flat, colourless crime novel

2009-04-08 00:00

I first read this book last year, in its original trade paperback format, but although I remembered the cover illustration (smaller now in the paperback reissue) I had absolutely no memory whatever of what was between the covers. So, noting the ecstatic quote from the Sunday Express, “No one is better than Cornwell”, I reread the whole thing.

Certainly, and especially in the Scarpetta novels, Cornwell can be good, and sometimes very good indeed. The non-Scarpetta tales, however, though competently written (slick and well-practised), range from the mildly interesting to the downright embarrassing, especially when she tries to be funny. Mercifully she doesn’t try that here, and her lead character, state investigator Win Garano, is pleasant enough. He’s asked to investigate the case of a young British woman murdered more than 40 years ago and assumed at the time to be a victim of the Boston Strangler.

Into this story is woven that of Win’s hardnosed boss, Monique Lamont, willing to stop at nothing in her quest for power, and of the Front, acronym for Friends, Resources, Officers Networking Together, well supported by a wide variety of police departments and hated by Lamont and by the state police.

Good material here for a fine crime novel, and some well-observed and engaging characters. And yet the whole is somehow so flat, so colourless, that for the second time I put it down after reading it and could hardly remember a thing about it. I had to scratch through it all over again to write this review. A potboiler. Don’t bother with it.

Stephanie Alexander

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