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Thursday 1 October 2015

‘This Thing of Darkness’ by Harry Bingham

Published by Orion,
9 July 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-5271-2 (TPB)

When I first encountered Fiona Griffiths, Harry Bingham’s somewhat unusual detective constable in the South Wales police, I didn’t know whether to gasp in admiration at her brilliance and unorthodox methods, or suspend disbelief rather further than usual in order to accept that she would ever have been taken into the police force at all, given her medical history and personal background.

In the end, I did both, and settled down to enjoy a pacy, twisty story peopled with well-drawn characters, some of them as offbeat and unlikely as Fiona herself.

Four books into the series, nothing has changed. Fiona is still in recovery from Cotard’s Syndrome, a form of mental illness which, among other things, leaves sufferers dissociated from the real world. Her maverick brain doesn’t work in quite the same way was most people’s, which is good news for any investigation she undertakes, but bad news for real-life situations like shopping and relationships. Her father is arguably one of South Wales’s most successful unconvicted criminals, and more hints about his activities emerge here.  Despite all this, she is still a serving police officer, and has little truck with doing things by the book – though she does try, because she wants to keep her job. Fortunately her senior officers, stern DI Dennis Jackson and eccentric DI Rhiannon Watkins, know when not to ask questions.

Harry Bingham not only convinces the reader, this one anyway, that all of the above is possible; he also gets under his protagonist’s skin in a way few authors achieve, and his use of first-person narration pulls the reader in there with him, so that her skewed way of seeing the world feels almost normal. After all, why wouldn’t she get 78% in her sergeant’s exam after no revision when the average is 50%?

This time Fiona is investigating cold cases, an apparently impossible burglary and a suicide which she is convinced is murder, alongside the tedious routine job of her nightmares: collecting and logging forensic evidence in a rape case. She spots a possible link between the cold cases which no one else has seen, and bingo, we’re off-piste and on another journey into the South Wales underworld. Only Fiona Griffiths would connect an apartment in Bristol and the theft of valuable paintings on the Gower Peninsula with an art student in London, a climbing school in Snowdonia and a fishing trawler in Milford Haven. And uncover a major financial scam while she was about it.

The fact is, the police force needs less bureaucracy and more Fionas; that way connections would be made and crimes would be solved. But Fiona Griffiths is a one-off, and a fictional one at that. Pity, though.

She even solves the rape case.
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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