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Thursday 4 July 2024

‘Current of Death’ by Sylvia Vetta

Published by Oxford eBooks,
28 September 2023.
ISBN: 1-91077904-0 (PB)

Crime fiction writer Alex Hornby loves her home in Thames Reach, just outside Oxford. The only drawback is that this peaceful, idyllic village provides her with no inspiration for murder mysteries. This changes when Alex is on a nature walk beside the River Thames and discovers a body floating in the water. The victim is Godfrey Price, a builder, who Alex later describes as the most unpopular man in the village. The main reason for this is that he demolished his grandfather’s house and built an ugly ‘fortress’ in its place and in doing so destroyed some ancient trees. Most of the objectors to this vandalism are convinced that Price is bribing someone with influence in his Planning Department. As well as the passionate conservationists who are dedicated to rewilding the area and preventing further destruction of wildlife habitats, there are many other people with more personal motives for Price’s murder.

When Price divorced his first wife, Carol, in order to marry a very young, very glamorous, blonde shop assistant, he treated Carol very badly, humiliating her and destroying her self-confidence and cheating her of the settlement she was entitled to by threatening to disinherit their two children. Their daughter, Angela, was so angry about Price’s treatment of her mother that she broke off all contact with him but his son, Kevin, works for his father in his building business. Carol’s mother, Margaret, also hates Price for his behaviour and she also lives in the village, however local gossip says that she is behaving very erratically and seems to be developing dementia. As if this local and domestic enmity is not enough, Price has angered an Albanian builder who feels that Price has cheated him.

The death is being investigated by Detective Chief Inspector Ranjit Singh and his sergeant, Kate Parr. Both of these conscientious and ambitious officers have moved from the Metropolitan Police to escape systemic prejudice, whether racist or misogynistic, and they are both desperate to prove themselves by solving the first murder investigation that they have been entrusted with. However, the complexity of the case and the demands it makes on the officers’ time causes conflict with the conflicting demands of Singh’s family life and adds to his stress. To make matters worse another suspicious death occurs, which may well be connected with the first murder, and the pressure upon the investigators becomes even more intense.

Fortunately for the detectives, Kate becomes friendly with Alex, who has a good insight into the village news and has also started to help support Samantha, Price’s second wife, who finds herself pregnant and isolated. The information that Alex passes on to Kate proves helpful in solving the original murder and several connected cases.

Current of Death is a crime novel that has many elements. It is multi-viewpoint and, as well as the central murder case, it explores planning fraud, dodgy builders, environmental activism, modern slavery and systemic racism, as well as domestic problems like mental breakdown and dementia. The village of Thames Reach is inspired by Kennington, which lies between Oxford and Abingdon, and one of the most engaging features of the book is the exquisite description of the scenery and wildlife and the passion of the characters who are dedicated to preserving and rewilding the countryside and fighting those who wish to destroy it.

Current of Death is a debut crime novel with a complex and interesting plot, which explores many important issues in contemporary life.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Sylvia Vetta. For twenty years Sylvia wrote the life stories of others including 120 Oxford Castaways for The Oxford Times turned into three books and three novels inspired by real events and real people. Sylvia says ‘It’s been difficult writing about myself, but I needed to tell the refugee story of my Indian born husband, Dr Atam Vetta too. In Brushstrokes in Time Sylvia recovers lost history. Ai Weiwei began his career with the courageous Stars artists in that glimmer of a Beijing Spring in 1979. When Sylvia heard their story from a founder, Qu Leilei, she wondered why it was not well known. As NO-ONE had written about the Stars Art Movement in detail, (and no one in China could) she decided to do it. To her knowledge, Brushstrokes in Time is the ONLY book on the Stars. She made it a NOVEL 

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 8 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. interview
To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
Death and the Dancing Snowman 

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