Amid my factual research for my North Wales mysteries, I’m trying to read the few Wales-based crime novels that have been written in the last decade. However, the first fictional Welsh policeman that I encountered was Rhys Bowen’s Constable Evan Evans in Evan’s Gate the eighth in her series set in Wales. I need to read the other nine, having found this one on a market stall in Porthmadog, North Wales.
For the less-cosy and the grittier tales, I have turned to Harry Bingham’s Fiona Griffiths series and Stephen Puleston’s Inspector Drake series, the latter set in the familiar location of North Wales. Time to review Book 1 then.
Brass in Pocket (Inspector Drake #1)
by Stephen Puleston (Goodreads Author)
Two traffic officers are killed on an isolated mountain pass in North Wales. Inspector Drake is called to the scene and quickly discovers a message left by the killer – traffic cones in the shape of a No 4.
The killer starts sending the Wales Police Service lyrics from famous rock songs. Are they messages or is there some hidden meaning in them?
Does it all mean more killings are likely? When a politician is killed Drake has his answer. And then the killer sends more song lyrics. Now Drake has to face the possibility of more deaths but with numbers dominating the case Drake has to face his own rituals and obsessions.
Finally when the killer threatens Drake and his family he faces his greatest challenge in finding the killer before he strikes again.
Review 4.3 stars
From the moment that two traffic officers are killed on the Crimea Pass, I felt that I was back in Snowdonia and I was drawn in. The setting of North Wales was always the hook for me and it felt real. Having lived there for a few years, I know some of the places. I could visualise the locations, even when I hadn’t been everywhere mentioned. A seamless blend of the familiar with the unknown. I want to return to Puleston’s world even if I can’t return to Snowdonia.
It was hard to like Inspector Drake with his odd habits, like his obsession with tidiness and routines, but I felt drawn to his determination and his team’s dogged work to decipher the significance of the killer’s clues from numbers to song lyrics.
As the killings continued, I set myself the challenge of discovering the killer ahead of the police team. At one point, I believed that I was almost there, but the plot alluded me. The killer seemed to think the numbers and lyrics meant something – unless he was toying with us. There were moments where I wondered if everything was a red-herring. The press played a key role in that, and as an ex-journalist, I have seen what some of them can do.
I was interested in the ways that the novel’s police operated, knowing that the author was a retired lawyer so knew his facts. The details rang true in the telling. I realise that the UK police underwent changes in 2015 so that means Inspector Drake might be facing some frustrating times in future books.
As the threats got more personal in this first book, the life that Drake had created was thrown into the spotlight, including the fallout from his obsessions that kept distracting him from what was important. The characterisation of Drake felt, at times, repetitive but then that was what he had become. Those habits can grate, but he rang true. I had an OCD neighbour once and Drake fits those patterns.
However, the supporting characters never quite earned so much space. His Detective Sergeant, Caren Waits had some scenes in her POV, but they felt like side-tracks and I never felt that we got to know her enough – except through Drake’s viewpoint. As for the other characters, they all had distinct personalities but there were moments when I felt there were too many cast members – especially with multiple suspects and witnesses. Maybe that’s the problem when searching for a serial killer.
However, having a POV for the killer worked much better than the POV for Caren. Seeing the plot unfold from the mind of the ‘game-master’ worked as he drove the plot more than Drake at times.
This is a recommended read and I will be checking out Book #2.
Story – five stars
Setting/World-building – five stars
Characters – four stars
Structure – four stars
Readability – four stars
Editing – four stars
Season’s Greetings to all my followers and visitors – or should I say Nadolig Llawen.
May 2018 bring us all inspiration, great reading, good health, hope and peace.