RogerBW's Blog

The Dead House, Harry Bingham 18 April 2020

2015 police procedural mystery, fifth in the Fiona Griffiths series. The body of a young woman is found in the annexe of a church, respectfully laid out and with no signs of violence. It may not even be a murder…

As before, if you haven't read the earlier books it won't be clear why Fi acts the way she does. She indulges her whims and preferences in a way that doesn't really fit well with the life of a detective sergeant, and one has to assume that her superiors are explicitly conniving at it because her weirdnesses produce results that wouldn't be possible by more conventional means.

Structurally, though, the book has more problems: it's very clearly built round two very strong sequences, one in a cave at about the two-thirds mark and the other forming the climactic events of the ending, and I can't help feeling rather more authorial enthusiasm for them than for the connective tissue that moves the pieces into place for them to happen. It smells of the lamp, and Bingham clearly knows it: the biggest gap, of why person A would ask supposedly-honest person B to assist them in a serious criminal enterprise, is papered over with "they knew each other at school".

Possibly the resolution of the mystery just broke my disbelief-suspenders: there are too many people involved, and no way of screening them for reliability before bringing them into the secret, so I didn't find it plausible that it should have worked as presented.

And that's a shame, because the rest is very good. The immediate descriptions are excellent, especially in those key sequences; the progress of Fi's investigation works well, being frustrating to her while not to the reader; and while there's very little movement in the greater plot it's kept in play.

I gather the next book, which so far is the latest published, takes a bit of a down-turn, but for now I'm still enjoying this series. Recommended by Gus.

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Previous in series: This Thing of Darkness | Series: Fiona Griffiths | Next in series: The Deepest Grave

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