RogerBW's Blog

Nothing to Hide, James Oswald 02 March 2022

2019 contemporary thriller. After the events of the last book, DC Constance Fairchild is on suspension and hounded by the press. But she's a born copper, so when a man turns up by her bins, mutilated and barely alive, she can't keep out of it…

The first of these books was a pleasant change from Oswald's McLean pattern – not that I dislike that, but I do feel that a new series and protagonist deserve a new voice. This one's much more in his usual style: yes, Con is still a different voice from McLean, but the core structure, the pattern that introduces the obvious villain quite early and does nothing to put anyone else in the frame, is the same. (Here, though, there's a welter of coincidence that causes the Bad Cult to cross Con's path in three separate ways, which is probably about two and a half too many for my taste.)

The McLean books are police procedural thrillers, but while Con's interacting somewhat with the force (most of whom, in one of the book's most realistic touches, blame her for the fuss attached to the downfall of well-liked officers who'd been revealed as having been on the take for years) she's still mainly a lone hero here, and there's never any doubt about the course of the investigation; a little uncertainty could have gone a long way to satisfying my mystery-reader mind too.

(I'm also deeply unconvinced that a synthetic super-potent variant of cannabis should be the Worst Street Drug Ever.)

But I still enjoyed the book; Oswald's writing is always good, and he has both well-drawn people and interesting events. Several characters from McLean show up when Con is briefly in Edinburgh, but this isn't just a name-check: seen from a different angle they come over quite differently, even while they're acting consistently with their actions elsewhere. Con's interactions with her family are well drawn, though it would certainly help if you've read the first book.

Flawed but fascinating.

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Previous in series: No Time to Cry | Series: Constance Fairchild | Next in series: Nowhere to Run

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