May 14th, 2008

I finished the Quintin James book "Aftershock" today.

Quintin Jardine writes a number of serial style books about recurring characters. One of his recurring characters is Bob Skinner, the Deputy Chief Constable for the Edinburgh area of Scotland. By all accounts he's typical of most detectives these days. He bends rules when he needs to, and breaks them when he has no other alternative, but unlike most rule breaking cops, is liked by those he works with (and so has few of the flaws that are typically associated with the flawed detective).

The problem with this book is that Skinner doesn't appear in much of the book. Imagine having a Rankin book with a marginalised Rebus or a Christie crime novel with a marginalised Poirot or Marple and you've got an idea of what to expect here.

In this book, a police procedural if you hadn't guessed, Skinner's subordinates investigate the shooting deaths of two Edinburgh artists, the murder of one of their boyfriends, and the killing of a mutual friend of theirs.

While they do this, they have to contend with the multi-millionaire father of one of the victims, who has effectively put a bounty on the head of the murderer at a press-conference organised by the police.

The book isn't bad, but it has three major problems as I see it. Firstly, it feels like a story that you've walked into, part way through. It's interesting, but you get the sense that there's this whole back story you're missing.

Secondly, it's almost too procedural. Anyone who has read more than a couple of detective novels in the past 10yrs (or watched a Law and Order episode for that matter) will knows that there are certain things that the police have to do (and that they face several problems during an investigation). This book covers every one of those problems (or feels like it does), and that slows the book down somewhat, which might be a problem for some people.

Finally it's missing its' central character, which to my mind is never a good sign, and one of his more significant replacements dies 75% of the way through, which doesn't help things I don't think.

In short, this isn't a bad book, but I'm inclined to suspect that Skinner's absence is the 1000lb gorilla in the room that no one mentions. So if you want to "get into" the Bob Skinner series, I wouldn't start here (as the Irish say about travel directions).