Harry Devlin, Liverpool lawyer, hasn’t the best choice in women. He has started a relationship with Juliet May, the wife of Casper May, the biggest villain in all of Merseyside. A weekend away in the cottage belonging to Juliet’s work associate seems the ideal solution to their attempts to keep things under wraps. Of course, nothing is going to go wrong…
Arriving in the middle of a storm, their evening is disturbed when a tree crashes through the roof. Juliet heads round to ask the neighbour for help – and quickly returns after finding him dead, killed almost ritualistically – most notably by having his head cut off.
While Harry is desperately trying to keep his cover story intact – the one that explains why he was in a remote cottage with a gangster’s wife which won’t result in him having his kneecaps (or worse) removed – he can’t help but stick his nose into the investigation. But when another lawyer is killed in the same way, it seems that someone very dangerous is prowling the city. And if their target is lawyers, is Harry next on their list?
Apologies to Martin – I was trying to get through all the Murder Squad members before the launch of The Starlings last Saturday – but didn’t quite make the deadline. It was a smashing event, by the way – all six members of the Squad – Ann Cleeves, Martin Edwards, Margaret Murphy (aka A D Garrett), Chris Simms, Kate Ellis and Cath Staincliffe – along with three associates, Helena Edwards, Christine Poulson and Toby Forward. It was lovely to chat to as many of them as I could and I really hope the book does well. It’s such a magnificent looking book, as well as containing some compelling stories, it would make a great Christmas present. Or an anything present, really.
I’ve actually been putting off reading this for ages – I’m running out of Martin’s books and, apart from Dancing For The Hangman, this is the last one – oh, the other thing I learned at the book launch was that Martin’s latest Lake District mystery is due is a couple of weeks time! Hurrah! How long I wonder can I hold out before that one…
Anyway, this is the last Harry Devlin book for me – he returns a decade or so later in Waterloo Sunset, but that was the first one that I read – and it maintains the high quality of the series. Harry is a great creation, someone whose choices often rebound on him, but he’s a resilient chap who keeps on going and maintains his sense of humour, unlike some sleuths who would climb into a bottle.
Plotwise, Martin demonstrates his love for the classic mystery while wrapping a modern-style crime novel around it. It’s exactly the sort of book that this blog was looking for when it started, hence it’s fair to say that I loved it. As the book progresses, the plot comes into sharper and sharper focus as you start to figure out the roles of various characters in the big picture while still obscuring the murderer.
Oh, just realised that I read The Coffin Trail before starting the blog – that’s another one of Martin’s that I can read in the future. Hurrah!