RogerBW's Blog

Talking to the Dead, Harry Bingham 28 January 2019

2012 police procedural mystery, first in the Fiona Griffiths series. DC Griffiths, who had a serious breakdown of some sort when she was a teenager, is the most junior member of the police team investigating the murder of a part-time prostitute and her young daughter in Cardiff.

It rapidly becomes clear that Fi Griffiths is not by any means a conventional copper. Even a little time spent inside her head (and this is narrated in first person) makes it clear that this is not someone who should be trusted with police powers, or possibly even let out in public. She follows hunches, ignores her assigned tasks, badgers witnesses and suspects, and generally makes a mess of being part of the team.

Except that she has a nasty habit of being able to put the pieces together, and while she may get shouted at a lot, her superiors can recognise that doing that can outweigh the other stuff. (Even so, one has to stretch one's suspension of disbelief a little.) There's a lot of interviewing of prostitutes, and Fi seems to have a knack there too, for putting aside the aura of police-ness and talking as a friend.

Jackson is a grizzled old sod, which means that he remembers the old days, when prostitutes were just bundled off down to the interview rooms to be shouted at by a whole bunch of blokey officers who exuded dislike, lust, and distaste from every masculine pore. But he's also an intelligent officer, who recognizes that the old days weren't exactly bathed in an eternal glow of success, and that other approaches have their merits too.

There's evidence to be evaluated, and a possibly-deceased tycoon who seems to be involved; this isn't quite a mystery, in that who actually did the killing can be worked out fairly quickly, but there's a lot more needed to set things up such that they can be arrested and effectively prosecuted. There's a neat trick here of making the criminals plausibly self-interested and stupid rather than Moriarty-esque masterminds, but at the same time leaving their schemes not at all obvious from the outside.

This is certainly grim-police in the Stuart MacBride style, and I won't be reading lots of these in quick succession, but it's very good stuff, and Fi's voice in particular is going to bring me back for more. Recommended by Gus. Followed by Love Story, With Murders. FFTR.

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Series: Fiona Griffiths | Next in series: Love Story, With Murders

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