Where Are They Now?
I don’t know about you, but when I’m ill I really don’t want to be reading anything new. This is the time when I search the bookshelves for something that has given me pleasure in the past and wallow in a surfeit of re-reading. And, that is precisely what I’ve been indulging in over the past couple of weeks while recovering from the dreaded lurgy. While I was really ill I stuck to books that I know so well I can practically recite them. 84 Charing Cross Road is a particular favourite. (Not books, I know, but never go to a production of Twelfth Night or As You Like It with me. I have been known to prompt from the audience, and woe betide a director who decides to cut any of my favourite lines. I’m likely to demand an explanation there and then having supplied the missing iambic pentameters myself!) Once on the mend, however, I searched through the available volumes and alighted on the two police procedural novels centred on war veteran Joseph Stark and written by Matthew Frank, If I Should Die and Between the Crosses, published in 2014 and 2016 respectively. I don’t know about the later book, but the first of these definitely won awards and rightly so. I read it at the latter end of 2015 and it was definitely one of my books of the year. What is more, it bore a re-read and that isn’t always true of a book where plot and carefully placed reveals are essential to its success. But, for the last two and half years, silence. Frank’s name is on a list I keep of authors to check off against forthcoming publications but at the moment I wait in vain.
Another such series that appears to have run into the buffers after only two instalments is that by Rob McCarthy focussing on one Dr Harry Kent, the first of which, The Hollow Men, was nominated for the Betty Trask first novel award. I’m not certain what won that year, but it must have been pretty good to beat this, also a crime novel centred around the problems that veterans have returning to civilian life. In this instance the main character is a doctor who has taken up a post in the NHS but who also serves as a police surgeon with the Metropolitan Police. McCarthy is particularly good at describing the temptations for anyone in the medical profession to self medicate rather than admitting to what they see as failure to adapt to life out of uniform. To be fair, the second novel, A Handful of Ashes, was a 2017 publication, but there is no sign of a third.
Where are you both now? I ask. And more to the point when are your books number three on the way?
Tell me, am I the only reader to get impatient in this way or are their authors whose next works you feel are becoming overdue?
Sweet Little Lies ~ Caz Frear
I am now back reading new fiction and this week picked up a first novel by Caz Frear, Sweet Little Lies. This is also a police procedural set in London and featuring DC Cat Kinsella, a member of the Murder Squad, although perhaps not for much longer, given her boss’s concern about the effect her last case has had on her. Cat, desperate to stay in the squad, is horrified then when the next major investigation turns out to have connections not only to her past, but more specifically to her current family dynamics. She ought to declare an interest and excuse herself from the inquiry, but both her precarious hold on her posting and the fact that a twenty year old personal mystery may at last be about to be solved keep her quiet and she continues to work the case knowing that at any moment she could be found out and face disciplinary procedures.
Both Cat’s story and the investigation centre on the way in which the sins of the father can be seen to blight the lives of their children. Frear also reminds us that while the horrors of the Magdelene Laundries might be behind us there are still people are more than willing to exploit young women who find themselves pregnant and without any form of family support. The story she tells is at times horrific, but unfortunately never pushes the bounds of believability.
I thought this was a well plotted first novel with some excellent characters. I particularly liked the fact that all the police were decent human beings who deserved the ranks to which they had risen. I am a little tired of police procedurals where squads are full of first class rotters who in many instances are as bad as the people they are pursuing. Yes, I know that can happen. I lived in the West Midlands through the 1970s, 80s and 90s; there is nothing you can tell me about police corruption. Nevertheless, the bullying DCI has become something of a cliché and I was glad not to have to deal with one here. I shall definitely be reading the second instalment, Stone Cold Heart, when it comes out later this year. Please Ms Frear, don’t then make me wait for years for episode three.