David Field’s recent police procedural novellas contrast nicely with some of his past writing, which some will know I have enjoyed a great deal. While I discovered Field with his ‘Victorian’ and ‘Tudor’ writing, this modern story has a peppering of times past, which helps to pull things together in a wonderful mix of mystery, history, and grit. When the manager of a high-end brothel is found with a hypodermic needle in her arm, everyone is baffled and highly troubled. It would appear someone injected Linda Clifford with some laced heroin, though the victim had no known enemies. When the authorities arrive, it soon becomes evident that Clifford’s ongoing cooperation with ‘Operation Delilah’ could be one glaring reason to see her exterminated. Delilah has been covertly monitoring sex trafficking from the former Balkan states over the past number of months, something the British authorities have sought to eradicate. Enter, DCI Mike Saxby, who is asked to head up the investigation and oversee two incompatible detectives who are working many angles. He’s also being harassed by a local journalist who wants to share the history of the building. It would seem that 17 Cavendish Square has a long history of hauntings and strange goings-on, though Saxby has not yet accepted that this crime has anything to do with it. Digging a little deeper and trying to find the one employee who was mysteriously absent just after the body was found, Saxby and his team work to gather the numerous shards of information and determine who might know more than they are letting on. If that were not enough, Saxby is trying to deal with his family life, which includes a daughter who seeks ongoing financial compensation for her various needs. With press building on the case, it will be up to Saxby to determine if this was another ghost-related criminal act, or if someone will have to be held accountable for the murder. The motive must be evident, though it will surely take Saxby and his team a great deal of effort to connect the dots. Field does well entering the modern police procedural, keeping his story on point in short order and holding the reader’s attention throughout. Recommended for those who enjoy police procedurals, as well as the reader who wants something quick to digest.
I have enjoyed David Field and his writing since I first stumbled upon his Victorian crime series. He is able to compact a full mystery into a novella and keep the reader wanting to learn more, without weighing them down with too much minutiae. This story works well in its modern setting, as the narrative is fast-paced and the characters take little down time. DCI Mike Saxby proves to be the protagonist, more because he is the spoke in the wheel than being front and centre in the investigation. His management of the information garnered by two DIs helps to show his management style, which is offset with his subordinate role in the Saxby household, with a strong-willed wife and financially dependant university daughter. The reader learns a little about Saxby throughout, both personal and some backstory, though it is his case management that proves to be the most prevalent part of this story. Other characters serve well to keep the story moving in a positive direction, as the reader learns much about the case through their dialogue and some of the narrative direction that pushes them towards certain discoveries. Field uses the compacted time he has to reveal much, while also injecting a great deal of history—modern and more dated—to educate the reader throughout. Deception awaits at every turn, though the reader can revel in it all and try to piece together what’s going on, based on the various bits of information that are revealed. I quite liked the story and found the mix of regional tensions and historical goings-on quite well done. As with many of Field’s pieces, the reader must attach themselves early on or they will be lost in the overall experience. I am pleased to have another DCI Mike Saxby story close at hand, as I am eager to see what threads left to dangle are utilised in the follow-up mystery.
Kudos, Mr. Field, for another entertaining piece. I always enjoy seeing your ides put to paper and marvel at how they are all released at the same time, though prove vastly different.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons