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Monday 20 July 2020

‘Long Shadows’ by Derek Thompson

Published by Joffe Books,
23 June 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-78931-430-4 (PB)

The detective with a dysfunctional personal life is something of a trope in crime fiction, and in Long Shadows Derek Thompson picks it up and runs with it. Detective Sergeant Craig Wild is recovering from a breakdown after an investigation went well and truly pear-shaped; his marriage to an ambitious DCI has ended with bitterness on both sides; and he has been redistributed from his relatively high-profile job in the Met to a quiet Wiltshire backwater where no one takes him seriously because of his total lack of local knowledge.

But Craig is made of sterner stuff than his bruising history might suggest. When a farmer is found dead in a field from a shotgun wound, he is the one who points out that suicide is not an option since there is no gun at the scene. With the help of PC Marnie Olsen, a far brighter cookie than anyone in his own team, he sets about investigating the death in a place where murder happens so rarely that no one knows how to cope with it. No one, that is, apart from DI Marsh, his boss; she’s another incomer, though that makes her no more sympathetic towards Craig than anyone else.

The plot thickens up nicely as Craig battles his way through a web of unco-operative colleagues, unwilling witnesses and a boss who makes him feel he’s on trial. There’s also a subplot which refers back to his previous life in London, which serves to improve his relationship with Marnie, if not his credibility with the Wiltshire team. The characters are a sharply drawn bunch of dour or eccentric locals and police personnel, all of them well within the comfort zone of any fan of procedurals; perceptive Marnie Olsen and the shrewd, spiky DI are the ones who stay in the mind. And the settings are well depicted, with plenty of contrast: farmhouses with echoes of the 1950s; a run-down country pub; the elegant home of a doctor; a smart London apartment; Craig’s own comfortless new abode.

It all adds up to a well written, workmanlike rural police procedural with all the makings of a series-in-waiting. Craig Wild’s history may yet have secrets to yield up; and the way he settles in a community which is like a foreign country to him has definite potential for development. I look forward to following his progress.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Derek Thompson writes fiction and non-fiction. He grew up in London and started writing fiction in his teens.
He wrote a commissioned piece for The Guardian in 2008 and started freelance writing in 2009. His short fiction has featured in both British and US anthologies and can also be found online. He dabbles in comedy writing for live performance and radio.
His love of film noir began with The Big Sleep and has never left him. Much of his fiction involves death, loss or secrets. As the saying goes: write about what you know.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.  

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