I’ve been a fan of the Strike series of crime novels for a while now, and have been looking forward to this latest instalment, which focuses on the detective’s first cold-case. The last book in the series, Lethal White, contained an interesting mystery but was a little slow-going at first, and could probably have done with a little more editing (although I felt it grew on me during a second reading), so I was a little worried when the newest book arrived and I saw that it was over 900 pages long. Would it be another book that contained an interesting plot but could have withstood a little more editing?
The plot centres on Margor Bamborough, a doctor who disappeared in the 1970s. It was always believed that she had been abducted and murdered by serial killer Dennis Creed, but he has never admitted killing her and now her daughter wants more answers. Robin and Strike agree to take on the case, and are shocked by the notes that they find from the initial investigating police officer. In the middle of a mental breakdown, he kept a notebook that centred on using mystical connections, tarot readings and the zodiac to find the killer. The case takes the private detectives on a year long journey, unpicking truths from lies. But so many years have passed, and in this case nobody is quite what they seem.
The mystery plot in this novel was good. It contained some very dark moments but there were plenty of twists and turns, and I did not guess at the solution to the mystery at all. The mystical elements certainly added another element of interest, and I really enjoyed reading about the characters unpicking a mystery from such a long time ago.
And coming back to the question of editing… well, the beginning definitely was a little slow going again. I felt like this would not be a book that would draw readers in if they weren’t already fans of the series. I felt like we needed a little more drama and excitement and a little less domestic detail to begin the story. Once I got into the middle, I was gripped, and raced through the book, making short work of the hundreds of pages, and I enjoyed the intricately plotted mystery.
If you’ve read any of my previous reviews you will know I always enjoy reading about Strike and Robin’s ‘will they-won’t they’ relationship’; there was little of this in the first half of the book, although they do have a pretty spectacular blazing row, where Robin finally lets him know exactly how difficult his behaviour can be to deal with. The second half did contain more moments of them growing closer, and it was interesting to see the characters develop.
An interesting addition to the series: maybe a little too long and in need of some editing, but certainly an engaging and gripping book.