RogerBW's Blog

This Thing of Darkness, Harry Bingham 19 November 2019

2015 police procedural mystery, fourth in the Fiona Griffiths series. Stuck with logging evidence, Fiona asks for some cold cases to look at, and is soon digging for details in her own distinctive style.

And this isn't a great place to start. While the first two books were still settling into their genre, they include essential information for setting up who Fi is and how she works. All right, you wouldn't be entirely lost if this were your first book of the series, but you'd miss a lot of interesting detail.

For all Fiona's mental oddities, it seems to me that much of the structure of these books is about intuition. Specifically, Fi has it and draws connections between things that seem not to be related, but (because this is a police story more than it is a vigilante story) has to gather actual evidence that can prove to the police, and then to a jury, what the connections are and what's actually been going on. It helps that while her moods are variable she never comes over as whiny.

On one hand, the author is clearly on Fi's side; not only is her intuition pretty much always right, she has a bunch of utterly reliable friends with specialised skills who will drop everything to help her, as well as superiors who say things like

Fiona, I wouldn't give a flying fuck if you had battered the man to death, then brought Jesus Christ and a retinue of his fucking angels down from heaven to bring him back to life, so you could kill him all over again. And I will, happily, put those sentiments on the record any time the situation requires.

On the other hand, she certainly doesn't get things all her own way, and she has a pretty rough time here; she's not by any means a wish-fulfilment figure the way some protagonists turn out to be.

The climactic scenes turn out to have been the ones that originally inspired the story to be built round them, often a good approach, though I found myself slightly unconvinced on one point: if a certain reversal of fortune, outside Fi's control, hadn't happened, there would have been a whole lot less evidence available for the eventual prosecution.

One might reasonably wonder why all these unusually-competent criminals are operating in and around Cardiff, and there's a suggestion of something like an overarching conspiracy which is clearly a possible development for later in the series – and ties to Fi's own background.

I'm continuing to enjoy this series, and I look forward to seeing how it develops further. Recommended by Gus.

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Previous in series: The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths | Series: Fiona Griffiths | Next in series: Dead House, The

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