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Death Watch by Jim Kelly
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Death Watch

by Jim Kelly

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I thought I made have made a mistake to read this immediately after the first in the series but it actually helped with one of the sub-plots running through both. Another complex plot which is incredibly detailed in a number of specialist areas, some probably best not to know about! The two lead characters of Shaw and Valentine are nicely drawn and given more opportunity to be given more depth in this story and I'm looking forward to the next installment. ( )
  edwardsgt | Mar 17, 2013 |
First and foremost, this gruesome stuff.

Put it this way – the story opens with a leg in a bag. And that’s not even one of the murder victims. That’s as un-gruesome as it gets. Hospital waste is described in detail in this story and I’m not talking about NHS managers getting paid too much.

It’s a detective story about illegal organ smuggling and Kelly pulls out all the stops to underline just how grim it is, not just with the physical descriptions of what a harvested body looks like but with an unflinching examination of what toll this sort of thing can take on the mind. In numerous places, normally when a body has been discovered (and that’s a lot) or where a body is being examined (that’s a lot too, as they have to examine all the ones they find), DC Valentine, one of Kelly’s coppers, stands as far away as possible. Sometimes you want to read this book at arms length.

But you want to read it. It’s compelling stuff and as the body count mounts you root for DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine to solve the crime before North Norfolk is depopulated entirely, but also because you want them to bring the killer or killers to justice in double quick time.

Technically, this is a thriller that ticks all the boxes. It’s got a fabulous, believable and convoluted plot with a logical ending that doesn’t leave the reader feeling cheated or manipulated. It’s tremendously enjoyable and, fittingly for a story set on the coast, there are plenty of red herrings. If you like thrillers, you’ll love this.

As a police procedure, it’s good stuff. There are incident rooms, remarks about terrible coffee, hard-ass superior officers demanding results a fabulous remark about the cost of modern forensic techniques. At the same time Kelly is clear about the cost that a murder enquiry exacts on a detective’s family. Shaw is married with a child, a child he apparently mainly sees through the medium of photograph text messages that his wife sends him of his kid playing happily on the beach while he is standing, once again, in some dreadful place looking at something dreadful.

And that something dreadful is often his partner, George Valentine. With the murder enquiry going round the clock, Shaw apparently has no need for sleep, routinely going for runs or swims in the dead of night. Valentine doesn’t sleep much either, subsisting almost entirely on fags, booze and coffee. He is, however, permanently knackered as a result but luckily is bitterly resentful about his career trajectory – which is better than all the espresso in the world for motivation.

Past and present collide here, a frequent feature of Kelly’s books but in this case he has outdone himself. Not only do we have Shaw still investigating the case that ruined the reputation of his father, but the murder that kicks the whole story off has links to the disappearance of a young girl eighteen years ago. Secrets, conspiracy and very satisfactory resolution abound and also lead to one moment where, literally, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up on end as the whole story lurched in a different direction with one fabulously executed turn of a police procedural plot. A shocker of a surprise that did not leave me feeling short changed but rather delighted and excited.

Finally, Kelly makes frequent reference to Shaw’s ‘tide watch’. This, it turns out, is because Shaw is a RNLI volunteer and, presumably, has to know at all times what the tide conditions are and you can get watches that display the time and also whether it is high or low tide at a specific location. What a let down! I had expected a watch that just showed either the moon or some water washing up a beach and left you to figure out the time from that, not the other way round. Then again, I can see the drawbacks this would have in a murder enquiry – ‘we put the time of death somewhere between it being safe for cockling and conditions being hazardous for a quickie underneath the pier Guv!’. ( )
1 vote macnabbs | May 29, 2010 |
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This book is dedicated to the memory of
Donald Webster Gillies
11 August 1920 - 13 December 2008
A proud Son of the Rock
And a great teller of stories
To Judith
For knowing, always, the right answer
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The moment Bryan Judd's twin sister died - that very instant - he was sitting on an abandoned sofa on the waste ground behind Erebus Street.
The dead woman's face was white, as bloodless as China.
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Teaming up with his father's tough ex-partner to investigate a gruesome series of murders, rookie detective Peter Shaw uncovers disturbing links between the case and unfinished business from the past.

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