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Tuesday 14 November 2023

‘A Strange and Murderous Air’ by Nikki Copleston

Published by Silverwood Books,
5 November 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-80042-265-0 (PBO)

Detective Inspector Jeff Lincoln is content working at Barley Lane police station with a team that he knows well and which functions efficiently together, supporting each other and fully utilising their various skills. However, Lincoln knows that Barley Lane’s days are numbered. The police station is due to be closed down and the building sold off and the police personnel who work there will be dispersed to other stations. Nevertheless, it comes as a shock when a murder and kidnapping investigation cause DCI Connors, Lincoln’s line manager, to decree that he should work from Park Street police station, where she herself is based. The move makes it very difficult for Lincoln to work to his full efficiency. The building at Park Street may be more modern but that doesn’t make it a pleasant work environment. Lincoln has to work in a crowded office with a shortage of chairs and get his coffee from a temperamental machine that drips out an unidentifiable liquid. Also, he has to deal with a resentful fellow DI, a sergeant who takes offence too easily and, worst of all, the suspicion that somebody at the police station is giving information to a local newspaper reporter who is using it to sensationalise the case. Because Lincoln is trying to direct two teams based in two different locations it is inevitable that some information will fall down the gap between the two teams, which inevitably slows progress.

 The case Lincoln is investigating is far more complex than it appears at first sight. Ramsay Keiller, a man in his seventies, is found in his car a short distance from the farm shop and smallholding he acquired when he retired. Ramsay had been shot and he bled to death in his car. Previously, Ramsay’s smallholding has been targeted by vandals who have shot out his security cameras and daubed graffiti on his walls. The police assume that Ramsay had been shot during the commission of a robbery in his farm shop, although nothing appears to have been stolen. Ramsay had then managed to drive a short distance away before he died. This does not explain why he had been driving in a direction that led only to a neighbouring farm, a detail that continues to niggle at the back of Lincoln’s mind.

Investigations into the dead man’s background reveal that he had once been employed by the Ministry of Defence but had been made redundant after campaigning for various environmental causes and because of his determination to probe into whether biological experiments had been responsible for his brother’s death many years previously. When this information comes to light, it seems possible that Ramsay’s death had more sinister significance than a random robbery gone wrong.

The investigation twists around again when the police realise that another person had been present at the farm shop when Ramsay was shot. Music teacher Jill Fortune is missing, and it becomes increasingly evident that she has been kidnapped by Ramsay’s killer. At first it is unclear which of the two was the primary target and which was collateral damage. When the investigation becomes focused on Jill’s life the theories alter almost as swiftly as they are mooted. Was Jill merely in the wrong place at the wrong time? And if not, was she targeted by her daughter Annika’s ex-boyfriend? A man whom Jill played a large part in convincing Annika to dump. Throughout the investigation Lincoln has at the back of his mind Jill’s connection to music, not just as a present day music teacher but in the past. He is especially interested in her teenage relationship with Dan Swann, a local boy who had formed a band and become a star as a singer-songwriter until his drug use caused psychological damage and he returned to his hometown and became obsessed with conspiracy theories and his belief in extra-terrestrial life. When it comes to light that Jill has been in touch with Dan Swann recently, only a short while before his death, things begin to slot into place. As the death toll mounts higher, it becomes a race against time to recover Jill before she too is killed.

A Strange and Murderous Air is the fifth book featuring DI Jeff Lincoln. It is a fascinating, multi-structured book with a complex plot that intertwines the past history of many of the characters and explores how it effects their present experiences. Because the narrative contains the viewpoint of several subsidiary characters, especially that of Jill, the reader is much better informed about the broader picture than the protagonist and his colleagues. The characters are well drawn and believable and Lincoln and the people close to him are engaging and likeable. This is a very enjoyable book, which I thoroughly recommend.
Carol Westron

Nikki Copleston was born in Somerset and raised in the West Midlands and Wiltshire, Nikki Copleston worked in local government in London for many years. Her grandfather and great-grandfather were policemen, which may explain why she's always enjoyed watching detective series on television and reading crime novels. She is an active member of Frome Writers' Collective, which supports and promotes writers in the Frome area. When she isn't writing, she enjoys exploring the West Country with her camera. She is already working on the next DI Jeff Lincoln novel. She and her husband now live in Wells, Somerset, with their cat.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 6 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
The Curse of the Concrete Griffin

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