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Monday 18 December 2017
‘The Deaths of December’ by Susi Holliday
Christmas. A time of peace and goodwill – unless you happen to be in the Major Incident Team of your local police force.
Becky Greene is a fairly new detective constable, and she gets to sort the morning post. It's mid-December, so when an advent calendar turns up on her desk she hardly gives it a second thought, until she notices that instead of chocolate or Santa pictures behind the doors, there are tiny photos of crime scenes. And suddenly the chase is on, for someone with a sick sense of humour at best – or at worst, a serial killer.
She teams up with jaded old hand Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine, who isn't looking forward to Christmas at all. It's a struggle to persuade the powers that be to let them follow the trail they're both sure is being laid for them, but then there's another murder...
On the face of it, this is a decent, workmanlike police procedural, competently plotted, well written and well-paced. But dig a little under the surface and there's plenty more to find. Susi Holliday lays a lot of threads, not all of them directly crime-related, and weaves them into the murder investigation to produce a human interest story which is every bit as engaging as the main event. She knows when to hold back information and when to release it in order to create maximum tension, and switches adeptly from one viewpoint to another to give the reader an all-round picture of the action.
She has a deft hand with characters too, and not only the major ones. Witnesses, back room workers at the police station, bit-part players with no real role in the plot, even a bag lady who wanders in and out of the narrative: they all receive equal care and attention, ensuring the background remains as rich and lively as the main action.
As I read this book, I kept thinking what good TV it would make. It's visual, atmospheric, full of incident, and still all about the people, not just the plot, although that's well-crafted as well. There's even an ending which will leave you open-mouthed and on tenterhooks for the next episode.
Susi Holliday has already garnered high praise for her previous titles. This one can only enhance that reputation.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
SJI Holliday grew up in East Lothian. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham competition. Her third book The Damselfly was published in February 2017.
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.