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Still Waters by Nigel McCrery
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Still Waters (2007)

by Nigel McCrery

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Still Waters is a solid murder mystery with some interesting aspects. The protagonist is a detective who has synaethesia (he tastes sounds), which prevents him from functioning normally. The murderer is an elderly woman who poisons other elderly women. This isn't a "whodunit" since we spend half the book with her, but the mystery lies in how the police will connect the initial body to her and track her down before she can do more damage.

Nothing knocked me over, but I did enjoy the unusual characters. They added some flavor (no pun intended) to the typical mystery novel. ( )
  BrookeAshley | May 21, 2013 |
In what is one of the most alarming openings to a book I’ve ever read, a children’s war-time tea party goes horribly wrong and readers spend the rest of the book trying to work out the connection to a modern-day crime. In the present day an old lady’s body is discovered on the fringe of some woodlands at the site of an unrelated car accident and Police have to unravel the story of how she came to be there. In parallel we meet another elderly lady called Violet (or is she?) who makes a habit out of befriending lonely, isolated women. Then killing them.

Called in from what is euphemistically known as ‘gardening leave’ to investigate is DCI Mark Lapslie who suffers from a neurological condition in which most sounds he hears trigger overwhelming taste sensations in his mouth. For example his mobile phone ring triggers the taste of chocolate (which sounds like yummy-ness without the calories) while the sound of a busy office triggers the taste of blood (less appealing all around I imagine). The book does a great job of demonstrating how such a condition impacts Lapslie’s life and the lives of those around him and seems quite realistic in its portrayal of how such a thing might drive and shape a person. In the end there isn’t a great deal of plot-driving point behind Lapslie’s condition but it would be a different story without this element because the condition does shape the Lapslie character.

The other major character in the story is Violet/Daisy who’s own character is equally well developed. Very early on we know she’s a killer but knowing that doesn’t detract at all from the building up of tension in the story. I found myself wanting quite desperately to know how she came to be the person she was and wondering what kind of connection she had (for there must have been one) to the awful event that opened the book.

There were quite a few story threads and potential plot devices that went nowhere or were left unresolved but I rather liked that. In many of the best-selling thrillers these days it seems as if everything that happens has to tie up neatly at the end which is so unlike real life. Here there were things that just happened and turned out to have no deeper meaning which made the whole thing more credible (and helped keep me guessing right to the end). This all added to the book’s unpredictability. There were several times when events happened and I thought I knew exactly how that particular thread would be resolved (having read a police procedural or three in my time) but in each case the predictable, forumulaic thing didn’t happen. The main story was resolved to my satisfaction so the loose ends that remained actually added to my enjoyment of the book rather than detracted from it.

The underlying reason for the events in the book were also, sadly, credible. Rather than larger than life serial killers making suits out of human skin (Thomas Harris) or similarly fantastical yarns this was a story that one can imagine happening in the real world. It’s about people who live on the fringes of society and to whom grizzly things can be done without much consequence. In fact a variation of this kind of thing did happen in my very own city not so long ago (google The Snowtown Murders if you’re interested).

I borrowed this book from a friend several months ago but, due to the ever growing TBR pile of my own books, was planning on giving it back un-read until I noticed it was scheduled for a Buddy Read at the Murder and Mayhem bookclub and I do enjoy discussing a book with others. I’m grateful to the person who scheduled it because I found the book to be a totally engrossing read with beautifully created imagry. On top of that it managed to do something quite different with a very familiar genre.

My rating was actually 4.5/5 (bring on the good reads half-star) ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
This went well enough - a serial killer steps into the shoes of the elderly women that she's killed, trying to keep herself safe from her sadistic (but dead) granny - but didn't really stand out. Polished, smooth, and a page-turner, I have nothing bad to say about the book, other than "I had to think for a minute before I could remember what this was about." ( )
  dknippling | Dec 16, 2011 |
People who keep dead bodies around are very scary. Not to mention the fingers. ( )
  picardyrose | Mar 2, 2009 |
A female poisoner a detective being returned from sick leave - `Still Waters' is brilliantly written. Whilst I don't enjoy `Silent Witness' preferring `New Tricks', I do think he is a great writer; this novel goes to prove that. Although the detective has synaesthesia which is a neurological condition resulting in emotions emitting smells; for me this wasn't the selling (or major) point for the novel.

The lead female character is fascinating. I was hooked early on. In parts the stereotype section of your brain will kick and you'll picture her as a man; suddenly becoming confronted by the atrocity of her crimes; realising that it's a woman which somehow makes it all worse.

You never really get to know Violet, which will all become clear when you read it. It's difficult to form an attachment to any of the characters actually; usually this isn't a good thing but it works in this novel. The length is just right; if it had been any longer it would simply have been spinning out something; like a lot of novels do. Instead the ending is tidied up (but in a good way) and you feel a sense of satisfaction and completion on reaching the last sentence.

I read this over two nights and I simply didn't want to put it down. There are undoubtedly better crime novels if you want to find your heart racing and pulse galloping. However, this plot is subtle and very realistic. It becomes quite surreal at just over the half way point but then you realise how it easy it was for Valerie to get into the situation she does. This may sound odd and badly reviewed but it is difficult to pinpoint when exactly I'm talking about without giving plot details away.

Get yourself a copy of this book, it is worth while to spend a couple of nights reading a quality, well written novel. ( )
1 vote SmithSJ01 | Mar 23, 2008 |
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Kesä 1944

"Mummi, mitä nää on?" Kate kysyi. (Esinäytös)
Kattojen yllä siintävä autereisen siniharmaa taivas oli kuin korkeuksiin kadun päästä päähän tasaisena laveerauksena pyyhkäisty väriläiskä. (1. luku)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307377032, Hardcover)

When the badly decayed body of an elderly woman is unearthed, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Lapslie and his sergeant, Emma Bradbury, are called in on the case. The body provides only two mysterious clues to the identity of the murderer: someone with a deadly knowledge of household plants used shears to clip the fingertips off the corpse's right hand. But this dearth of evidence is not Lapslie's only problem. He's just returned to the force after a year of relative isolation, trying to avoid the worst symptoms of his synasethsia, a neurological condition that causes him to "taste" sound and that makes his life as complicated as any crime he's been charged with solving. Now he's flooded again--not only with the convolution of senses that can drive him nearly mad but also with the increasing convolutions of the case. The murder appears to be the work of a serial killer, and the investigation is leading in a direction that could be extremely detrimental to Lapslie's career--if not to his very life.

Razor-sharp, viscerally descriptive, mesmerizingly eerie and entertaining--and with one of the most clever, ruthless, and sympathetic villains to appear in ages--Still Waters is a stunning start to an exciting new series.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:54 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When the badly decayed body of an elderly woman is unearthed, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Lapslie and his sergeant, Emma Bradbury, are called in on the case. Lapslie's just returned to the force after a year of relative isolation, trying to avoid the worst symptoms of his synasethsia, a neurological condition that causes him to "taste" sound and that makes his life as complicated as any crime he's been charged with solving. Now he's flooded again--not only with the convolution of senses that can drive him nearly mad but also with the increasing convolutions of this case. The murder appears to be the work of a serial killer, and the investigation is leading in a direction that could be extremely detrimental to Lapslie's career--if not to his very life.… (more)

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