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Thursday, 1 January 2015
‘The Waiting Game’ by Sheila Bugler
There are murder mysteries, police procedurals and psychological thrillers – and then there are books which combine elements of all three.
The Waiting Game is one of these. The main protagonist, though there are several, is D I Ellen Kelly, a single mum trying to keep her balance after a particularly harrowing case, maintain a safe, happy environment for her two children and rebuild her own life five years after the untimely death of the love of her life.
A stalker is on the loose, and Ellen seems to be the only member of the squad who is giving the victims’ complaints the attention it deserves – until one victim is found murdered. That’s when things begin to get complicated.
It’s a tangled web of a plot, and though the reader knows more than the police do from the outset, through frequent shifts in viewpoint which allow the story to emerge from several different directions, the final dramatic reveal is still a surprise. Bugler handles the complex structure deftly, dropping in subtle hints and stopping short of giving too much away too soon.
Her villains and potential suspects are as well-rounded as the good guys, and she sets up some interestingly flawed characters and scratchy relationships among Ellen’s colleagues. The less salubrious end of south London is drawn in detail too, and she also doesn’t pull back from graphic accounts of mutilation and killing methods.
It’s a chunky read, coming in at over 500 pages, and it might benefit from some pruning and tightening up, especially with regard to a wealth of minor characters who contribute little to the plot. But it’s still a fluent read, and this kind of craft is something which will come with experience. The Waiting Game is Bugler’s second novel, and there’s plenty of potential for a series which could run and run, giving her technique plenty of opportunity to develop.
For the moment, it’s enough that she can create a page-turning plot – which she certainly has.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Sheila Bugler grew up in a small town in the west of Ireland. After studying Psychology at University College Galway, she left Ireland and worked in Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland and Argentina before finally settling in Easbourne, where she now lives with her husband, Sean, and their two children.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.