RogerBW's Blog

Nowhere to Run, James Oswald 04 July 2022

2021 contemporary thriller with fantastic elements. DC Constance Fairchild was taking time off in rural Wales to recover, when the plague happened and she decided to wait it out. But as usual, trouble comes looking for her.

After a slight wobble in book 2, this series regains stability, even if it sometimes feels as though it should have been written by Harry Bingham, who's supposedly been working on the next Fiona Griffiths book since 2017. (There's even a sequence in which Con has to find her way through darkened caves, though it's not as claustrophobic as the one Bingham wrote.)

Of course, Con gets into trouble, but her boss takes advantage of her already being in Wales to plug her into a smuggling investigation ("The major ports are locked up pretty tight now, so the gangs have switched to bits of the coast we can't watch so closely.") And she runs into someone she feels an urge to help, perhaps because nobody else has. She's away from her usual contacts for most of the book, which is a shame, but some of the ongoing minor characters make appearances, if little actual progress in their own stories.

Interestingly, about half-way through the book, Con's already found out who the bad guys are, they know who she is, and they've tried to kill her. In spite of all that, the level of tension falls back for a bit; I'm not entirely convinced but I think it works, and I'm interested to see Oswald taking chances with his writing rather than getting into a rut.

I also liked the way that Con's boss has clearly worked out what sort of person she has working for her, and tells her firmly not to get involved in the big police operation, so she's only leaving this confidential briefing so that Con knows which toes not to tread on – with everything except a finger by the nose and a broad wink. Many police series need tension between hero and boss; that's still here, but it's not the tired old basic incompatibility that we've seen too often.

I did enjoy this a great deal, but it's a substantial change from the first two Con books (in which the main theme seemed to be dealing with the rich and powerful whom the law wouldn't touch) to something with both significantly more magic and targets who are less socially powerful and more conventionally criminal. This is not a bad thing.

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