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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

‘Blood on His Hands’ by Ian McFadyen

Published by The Book Guild Ltd,
28 November 2019. 
ISBN: 978-1-912881 94-9 (PB)

This good value “bargain basement” collection of murders is set in and around a small village in Lancashire. Moulton Bank boasts two pubs, two churches, and is traversed by the Leeds to Liverpool canal. The grand sounding Mid-Lancashire Academy, an upgraded comprehensive, has been schooling Moulton’s inhabitants for decades and is a dominant force in the community. Its deputy head, Mrs Brenda Rumburgh, is familiar with – and occasionally related to – many of the school’s pupils and their families, including that of DI Carmichael. The headmaster, Mr Wisset, is a strict disciplinarian. He has returned from far-flung places but is not unfamiliar with the area. 

The story begins in DI Carmichael’s parish church when a man whose hands are covered in blood approaches its young vicar and claims to have killed someone.  The man vanishes before DI Carmichael has a chance to interview him, but he reappears the next day in the boot of a Bentley with his throat cut. He is soon identified as Geoffrey Brookwell, an actor who is waiting for his big break.  He is also an old friend of Sean Atwood, a local builder who owns the Bentley in which Geoffrey’s body was discovered.  Another victim follows. Sajid Hanif, an optician is lured to his death in a hotel room, and then later Sean Atwood disappears and is found shot dead.  All three men went to the Mid-Lancashire Academy at more or less the same time several years ago.

DI Carmichael and his team, Sergeants Cooper and Watson and Constable Rachael Dalton are charged with solving the riddle of the murders. They work out of Kirkwood police station under the watchful eye of CI Hewitt.  Other than the obvious connection with the men’s schooling they are at a loss to explain why anyone would want to murder the men.  The clues are there to be understood.  There are at least two other murders, both passed off as collateral damage, and one botched attempted murder of another ex-pupil of The Academy.

The twin themes for this story are revenge and deceit. As you may gather from the number of murders there is little room for much else in narrative except: DI Carmichael’s daughter Natalie is being bullied by three girls at the Mid-Lancashire Academy and Carmichael is worried that an earlier indiscretion with a female colleague is coming home to haunt him.  Blood on His Hands is an easy read with believable characters – although do sane people set out to murder four people and then kill another couple along the way? It provides plenty of distraction, and hopefully no ideas, to others contemplating murder in these strange times we are experiencing.  It is the eighth book in the DI Carmichael series and I’m sure there will be more to come.
Reviewer: Angela Crowther

Photo courtesy of Harry Atkinson
Ian McFadyen is the author of the Carmichael series of Murder Mystery novels, set in rural Lancashire. With five books published to date, McFadyen has built up a strong following and is particularly well supported by library borrowers – being positioned in the top 10% of most loaned authors in the last two years. Favourably mentioned alongside Wilkie Collins and Colin Dexter, McFadyen’s titles – Little White Lies , Lillia’s Diary, Frozen to Death, Deadly Secrets and Killing Time, are all available in paperback and on kindle. His first four books are available in large print and Deadly Secrets is also available in Italian.
Ian is also on Twitter @IanMcFadyen1

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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