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Talking to the Dead: A Novel by Harry…

Talking to the Dead: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Harry Bingham

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1781566,644 (3.83)7
Title:Talking to the Dead: A Novel
Authors:Harry Bingham
Info:Delacorte Press (2012), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, mystery, Wales, detectives, murder, prostitution

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Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham



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I’m not normally a huge fan of the crime novel in which the detective (be they professional or amateur) is so much a part of the story as to make the crimes – and more importantly the victims – fade into insignificance. But Fiona (Fi) Griffiths offers an engaging and unique voice amongst crime solvers and although TALKING TO THE DEAD really was her story more than it was the story of any of its victims the book didn’t have the same egotism that the more traditional of these kinds of stories suffer from. A combination of Fi’s self-deprecating sense of humour and her genuine feeling for the victims she comes across sets her apart.

As the book opens Fiona is engaged in what I imagine is the fairly realistic, if unexciting, police work of trawling through the paperwork connected with an embezzlement case. However her colleagues are soon working on a major case – the death of a woman, possibly a prostitute, and her six year old daughter. Fiona wangles herself onto that case in the first of what becomes a series of unorthodox activities.

Although I don’t think it’s always true that you have to like a character to enjoy a book I do think that in this case the reader would have to at least appreciate Fiona’s personality, especially as the story is told in a first-person narrative. Happily for me I rather adored her. She is in her mid 20’s, has a philosophy degree from Cambridge and is a relatively new Detective Constable. Although her father has a somewhat shady past she is the product of a loving family but a period of significant illness in her teens has left its mark so that the growing into an adult skin that we all have to do has some particular challenges for Fiona. All of this makes her fascinating but it was her humour and her grand gestures on behalf of victims that made me love her.

Although a bit of judicious editing could have simplified and shortened TALKING TO THE DEAD without taking away any key elements it is, overall, a cracker of a yarn as well as an engaging character study. Aside from the slightly over-the-top ending, the bulk of the policing has a ring of credibility about it with dead ends and boring slog being just as crucial as the dramatic moments. We also meet Fiona’s family and one or two of her friends so there’s always something going on.

I can’t remember whose review it was that prompted me to buy this book more than two years ago but I’m glad I plucked it from the TBR pile and will definitely be seeking out the second book of the series as I am intrigued to see what happens next to Fiona, who reminded me a little of one of my other favourite crime solving heroines, Ruth Galloway.
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 8, 2015 |
DC Fiona Griffiths is a dynamic, interesting character with a great narrative voice. A mentally disabled character, too, which makes her all the richer, because she isn't yet another cookie cutter character. The plot is good, mildly twisty, and populated with a host of interesting characters. There's no flinching when it comes to that moment in Fiona's life when she realizes that she is not safe, and no matter what she does, she will never be truly safe (And Griffiths is better able to defend herself than most). That's a bad moment in every woman's life, and we all have to keep on going, pretending we are safe. I appreciate the reality of that moment. ( )
  CaineBooks | Jan 4, 2015 |
I love a good mystery -- and lead characters with flaws -- so this novel was perfect! About a young detective constable in Wales who finds herself working a major murder case involving the death and beating of prostitutes, as well as drug-dealing, and more. Our young detective suffered a mysterious illness earlier in her life, which is not revealed shortly after the climatic end of the book. Good storytelling and strong characters. Looking forward to the next book in the series. ( )
  Randall.Hansen | Nov 25, 2014 |
I remember Ian Rankin commenting to a questioner at a book signing that he doesn't write about female protagonists because he feels that he can't get the female voice quite right; he added that he thought that was true of most other male writers as well. I had that in mind as I read Harry Bingham's excellent "Talking to the Dead". Not only does he get the voice "right", but he does it writing in the first person, which I imagine makes it a bit more of a challenge. Fiona is a very interesting copper, a member of the force in Cardiff for the past 2-3 years, a lowly DC. But Fi is bright and a hard worker. She doesn't hang around with the boys at the local pub, and consequently is the butt of numerous whispers and har-har-har's back at the station. She becomes involved in a case involving dead prostitutes which expands to include drugs, people trafficking, embezzlement, etc. There is a hint of past substance abuse problems for Fi and perhaps some other dark episodes to her past. The prose is well done and entertaining, Fi's observations are spot on and occasionall rather humorous. Characters are well developed, including Dave, aka "Buzz", a potential love interest. The tension builds nicely throughout, and includes some scenes that are both shocking and touching at the same time. The biggest flaw is a fairly common one, once again we have the hero charging in without calling for support first; it seems to me that could have been easily avoided given the well done climax the author had developed..I will definitely look forward to book #2 "Love Story with Murders". ( )
  maneekuhi | Feb 27, 2014 |
Almost a four but slow in places. ( )
  pharrm | Jan 3, 2013 |
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Rookie cop Fiona Griffiths, on the cusp of breaking her first big case, uncovers a dire conspiracy that takes her into a dark underworld that threatens her with her own personal demons.

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