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Thursday 11 August 2016

‘The Dead House’ by Harry Bingham

Published by Orion,
28 July 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-4091-5275-0 (TPB)

Fiona Griffiths. Detective sergeant in the South Wales police Major Crime Unit. Another of those feisty female cops, you’re thinking. They’re in every book you pick up. Yawn.

Wake up at the back there, and hear this. Fiona Griffiths smokes weed. Actually she grows weed. She is constantly searching for clues to her mysterious origins. She drives very, and I mean very, fast. She is in partial recovery from a severe mental illness and has problems coping with everyday life, but that doesn’t stop her being brilliant. If she spies a connection others have missed, she makes it; if she sees a rule, and she doesn’t look for them very hard, she finds a way round it, or just ignores it. And she rarely does as her senior officers tell her.

But she always gets the bad guys, and invariably sorts out a few other issues along the way. Though there’s one bad guy she will never get: her father is possibly the most successful master criminal in Wales – successful in that he has never been caught. That aside, though, Fiona is the kind of cop you want on your side when your seven-figure bank account is being scammed or your priceless artwork has been nicked. She is, quite simply, crime fiction gold.

Especially if your favourite child is kidnapped by a gang who make their victims disappear if you argue about the multi-million pound ransom.

The Dead House is Fiona’s fifth adventure: a word she takes to a whole new level. It begins with a dead body, beautifully laid out in a bier house near a church. (A bier house is an old Welsh custom: a small building where a corpse could be visited before burial. A kind of mediaeval chapel of rest, you might say.) Natural causes, it turns out: no murder. But Fiona loves bodies, and guards it through a bone-chilling winter night.

Then, as she tracks down the corpse’s identity, she comes across an eight-year-old suspected murder with no body. Only Fiona could connect the two.

That connection takes her on an incredible journey involving the National Crime Agency, a small monastery, an eastern European billionaire, a woodland pond, a wild man of the woods, a labyrinth of caves, a stolid country detective inspector who soon appreciates what an asset she is and finds himself rather enjoying the rollercoaster ride she takes him on. Together they identify one of the biggest rackets South Wales has ever seen, and yes, they put a lot of bad guys away, some of them more than a little unlikely and unexpected.

I could go on, probably even without giving away the plot (you wouldn’t believe it if I laid it out, though suspending disbelief is easy while you’re reading), but you really should discover Fiona for yourself.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Harry Bingham is forty-something, married and lives in Oxfordshire. Harry is the author of the Fiona Griffiths series of crime novels, set in Cardiff and featuring a heroine described by the Sunday Times as 'The most startling protagonist in modern crime fiction ... brutal, freakish and totally original.  He also runs The Writers Workshop an editorial consultancy for new writers. His books on Getting Published and How to Write are among the leading titles in their field.  Formerly a banker, Harry is now full-time writer. He 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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