I write this review as a member of the Online Book Club org.
This police procedural novel, the second in The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries series, is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and it has it all: mysterious murders, a complex set of suspects that will keep fans of the genre spinning the wheels of their brains, a fascinating backdrop that includes political and religious issues, secondary themes that are in everybody’s minds (police corruption, sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape, stalking, financial crisis…), a team of policemen made up of distinct and realistic individuals, great dialogue, detailed crime scene investigation, touches of humour and even a dab of romance.
The story is told in the third person and it is narrated from the point of view of a variety of characters (mostly members of the police team, although also some chapters by some of the suspects), but there are no sudden changes in viewpoint and it does not cause any confusion. Instead, the style of the storytelling helps create a puzzle where the reader has more clues than any of the given characters, but there are also delayed discoveries and many red herrings, so things aren’t quite as easy as one might initially think. Being able to share in the different characters’ opinions and motivations gives the reader a multifaceted view that increases the intrigue.
At the beginning of the story we have a female Sergeant Detective, Denise Stewart, join Sheehan’s team. She has been through a harrowing experience at her previous post that has made her defensive and suspicious. Despite that, it doesn’t take long for her to realise Sheehan’s team is different and she starts to relax. Unfortunately, other things start going on in her life that seem, initially, completely unrelated to the murder they are investigating, a rather gross and well-planned crime that took place on a Tuesday at, exactly, 11:05 pm. There are several lines of enquiry, a fragment of a cufflink that keeps popping up, suspects galore, assaults on one of the detectives (young and handsome Tom Allen, who has taken an interest in Stewart), and Sheehan has the feeling that he’s missing something. His famous intuition seems to be letting him down but…
This is the second book in the series and although I have not read the previous one, I had no difficulty getting into the story. This is a standalone book that can be enjoyed without having read the first one but after having read this one I hope to read more in the series.
This novel could serve as an illustration on how to write mystery and police procedural books. The writing is precise, with enough descriptions and fleshing out of the characters to make the readers recognise them and care for them, with clues masterfully shared throughout the book, with no extraneous details or anything that does not move the story forward included. Even seemingly innocuous or passing comments have a reason and the twists and turns of the story will have readers choosing and discarding numerous suspects, keeping them always on their toes. The pacing and timing of the reveals work very well. When I was getting close to the end, I kept stopping and trying to run all the clues in my head to see who the perpetrator was. I had my suspicions from the beginning but kept changing my mind as the story went. Ah, and the ending did not disappoint.
Both the murder being investigated and the detectives are interesting in their own right and readers will end up feeling a part of Sheehan’s team. The light and humorous moments alternate with tense and scary moments enhancing both. The local touches and references to locations and historical events (the troubles) make it particularly memorable and distinct. I recommend it to any readers who love police procedural mysteries with great characters and complex plots. A word of warning, due to the nature of the crime and to some of the other scenes, this is not a book for the faint-hearted and is definitely not a cozy mystery.