RogerBW's Blog

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths, Harry Bingham 14 August 2019

2014 police procedural mystery, third in the Fiona Griffiths series. A routine payroll fraud blows up into a murder enquiry, and Fiona goes undercover.

This series feels as if it's taken a sharp turn in the direction of reality; Bingham has clearly done extensive research into the realities of undercover police work, and if this means the bad guys need to be unnaturally good at operational security compared with your normal real-world criminal conspiracy in order to justify the extended operation, that's a price worth paying to get a story about Fiona doing a thing she turns out, slightly to everyone's surprise including her own, to be really good at.

That does mean that there's slightly less of the flashy larger-than-life supporting characters than in the previous books, and quite a bit less action (mostly loaded into the end), but the characters are more real even if less colourful, the practicality of day-to-day life as an undercover cop comes through very effectively, and I found myself… enjoying isn't quite the right word, but liking this book even more than the first two. (Fiona's entirely off-the-rails style is somewhat restrained too; while she still has mad impractical ideas, she now thinks about them before making them happen, which given that she is a serving police officer whose superiors are meant to respect her at least a little bit I think must be counted as an improvement.)

Quite a few mysteries I've read lately cut off short after the dénouement and arrests; when I've got involved with characters and their stories, I like to have some feeling of what's going to happen to them next, and that's something Bingham provides effectively here.

I like Fiona as a character, and I like the situations she gets involved in, and Bingham's unpretentious but attractive writing style doesn't hurt either. Recommended by Gus.

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Previous in series: Love Story, With Murders | Series: Fiona Griffiths | Next in series: This Thing of Darkness

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