Sunday, 16 October 2011

Nicholas J. Clough: A Safe Place to Kill (2008)

In a village church in the Yorkshire Dales, the body of one of the church wardens is found stabbed, with wounds to the hands and feet. Murder is not the most common crime in the district, and Inspator Daykin, assigned to the investigation, is under close scrutiny from his superior officers. He is also assigned a new sergeant who happens to be the son of the Assistant Chief Commissioner.

The Yorkshire Dales are among the most beautiful parts of England, but this is not one of those detective novels which hints to TV production companies that a series would have a tourism-friendly background which would help them sell it abroad. The background is mainly used to provoke a sense of emptiness and isolation, and the book could be set in any sufficiently rural part of England, barring occasional mentions of people going for walks on the moor or travelling to Leeds. What in fact makes this a slightly unusual crime novel is that it is at least as concerned with police force office politics and character interaction as it is with the investigation.

The book itself is rather shoddily produced, with poor proof-reading in particular. It is also missing most of the marketing frills of modern publishing: no endorsements from other crime writers, no quotations from reviews. Even the author biography is just a single, uninformative line: "Nicholas J. Clough lives in Bath." It does at least have a colour picture on the cover. While this might be a refreshing change from the over the top hype typical of twenty-first century marketing, it does suggest that Constable expected A Safe Place to Kill to sink without trace. It may be old fashioned, but it is better than many novels given the familiar overkill treatment. Clough has written more, but not (I gather) involving Daykin, which is a pity: he is a detective I would be happy to see more.

My rating: 8/10.

Edition: Constable, 2008
Review number: 1432

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