Christmas. That well-known time of peace and goodwill to all men.
Unless you happen to be a serial killer, of course. In that case you wreck
people’s lives, cause chaos in whatever small village your creator decides you
live in, and leave the poor old detective inspector wondering if he’s going to
be home for his turkey and plum pudding.
D I James Walker thought life
was going to calm down when he moved from the Met to his wife’s home village in
the Lake District – but as all fans of crime fiction could have predicted, he
couldn’t have been more wrong. The Walkers have hardly had time to unpack when
someone leaves a dead partridge on their doorstep, along with a Twelve Days of
Christmas card containing a message: rather than lords a-leaping and gold
rings, there will be twelve well-deserved murders to celebrate the festive
season. And it’s not the last card bearing a similar message.
The cards are on sale in the
village shop, so just about anyone could have bought them. In fact, they turn
up in perfectly innocent circumstances; even the Walkers receive a one from a
friend, which causes a few moments of breath-catching tension.
Since James is on the spot, it’s
his case, and sure enough, bodies start turning up and the village goes into a
permanent state of panic. And then it snows. And when it snows in Cumbria, it really
The result is the kind of
police procedural that unfolds at a steady pace as one suspect after another is
eliminated, some more permanently than others. D I Walker is soon out of his
depth, which is saying something considering most of his career has been in
London and he recently put away a major gangster.
There’s plenty of claustrophobic
village atmosphere, a handful of characters with secrets in their interesting
pasts, an abrasive detective sergeant and a sparky young female D C who may
well prove a worthy sidekick if this standalone progresses into a series. The
killer, of course, is the person you least expect, but there’s still that ‘Ah,
why didn’t I see that coming?’ moment at the end.
The Christmas Killer is the kind of crime novel which could easily turn
into a TV series: beautiful landscape which is an unlikely setting for multiple
murders, policeman with skills the average village bobby never needs to learn,
all kinds of potential for shady visitors as well as plenty of quirky local
characters. Will it happen? We’ll have to wait and see.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Alex Pine is the pseudonym of a bestselling author who has also written books under the names Jaime Raven, James Raven and JP Carter. He was born and raised on a council estate in South London and left school at sixteen. Before becoming a full-time writer, he spent a career in journalism as a newspaper reporter and television producer. He was, for a number of years, director of a major UK news division and co-owned a TV production company. He now splits his time between homes in Hampshire and Spain with his wife.
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.