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Saturday 5 October 2013

‘Love Story, with Murders’ by Harry Bingham

Published by Orion,
20 June 2013.
978 1 4091 4090 0 

The quirky maverick cop is something of a staple ingredient of police procedurals – but they don’t come any quirkier or more maverick than Fiona Griffiths.

Fiona is a detective constable in the Cardiff force: never happier, never more at home, than when she’s following a trail of clues and piecing together a mystery, often without instruction or permission from her senior officers. She’s exceptionally bright, sees patterns and connections most people miss, and has no compunction about cutting through red tape and using unorthodox methods to get her man. As long as she’s allowed to do it her own way, work gives her no problem at all.

It’s real life she can’t cope with. Most of the time she would love to be normal, but following a period of severe mental illness in her teens, normal is just an aspiration to Fiona.

Harry Bingham captures her unique voice as if he were channeling her rather than inventing her. Perhaps he is; there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio... That he has an acute eye for character is evident throughout the book; even the most minor player has a distinct personality, and each of the leading ones is a complex bundle of eccentricities, foibles, even ordinariness. If I tell you Fiona’s father is an unconvicted master criminal, her boyfriend is Mr Play-by-the-rules Nice Guy and her detective inspector is a dogged, surly but vulnerable lesbian, that’s just a flavour.

Fiona herself is a survivor. There are hints that she has already come through more than one life-threatening situation, and in this storyline she breaks jaws, starts fires and enlists some questionable help when she finds she is a target. All in a good cause; a plot which starts with two dead bodies, cut up and distributed all over Cardiff, soon begins to spiral into something much darker and more political. It’s allegedly based on the kind of real-life incident which makes the more cynical among us nod wisely and wonder why we’re not surprised that such things are allowed to happen. And it all takes place during the coldest winter in living memory, which also comes across loud and clear.

If it all sounds as if the author is trying too hard and throwing too much into the mix, fret not, he has the skill and experience to weave it all together in a way that works. Harry Bingham has been around for a while, but Love Story, With Murders is only the second Fiona Griffiths novel. A third is on the cards, and I for one hope the series runs and runs.


Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Harry Bingham is forty-something, married and lives in Oxfordshire. He runs The Wruters Workshop.  Formerly a banker, is now full-time writer. Enjoys rock-climbing, walking, and swimming.

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.

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