Worse than Dead – a review

My fourth Cloak and Dagger read of 2019 was a return to familiar territory with Stephen Puleston’s Inspector Drake series, set like my current ‘work in progress’ in North Wales. I have already reviewed Brass in Pocket, the first book in the series.

On then to my review of Book 2.

Worse than Dead

(Inspector Drake #2)

by Stephen Puleston (Goodreads Author)

A ferry leaves Dublin…The chief engineer lies dead on the car deck …There’s a killer on board…
Inspector Drake is called from a seminar on cyber crime to meet the ferry docking at the port of Holyhead. Frank Rosen the chief engineer lies on the car deck a knife through his heart. For the first time Drake knows where the killer is but he doesn’t know who. 
When Rosen’s house is ransacked the night after he’s killed Drake knows the killer was looking for something. The data stick Rosen’s wife finds may hold the clues. But the codes and numbers on it only complicate the investigation.
And then Drake’s cousin makes contact and tells him he has information. But can Drake rely on him or does he have another agenda? And when the team discover a direct link to drug dealing in North Wales and beyond there are powerful forces at work. 
Drake’s cousin drags Drake’s family into the middle of the case that piles the pressure on Drake who’s facing regular counselling for his OCD and the prospect of losing his father to cancer.
When Drake’s superior demotes him and acts entirely against protocols Drake knows that something is wrong. Establishing the evidence takes him to Dublin and Cardiff and then on a last minute chase over North Wales to the ancient Fort Belan hoping that he will catch the killer.

Review 4.3 stars

I was hoping that this second Book in Stephen Puleston’s Inspector Drake series would transport me back to North Wales. I was not disappointed.

This was the country I remembered from living there a few years – without the criminal element. That darker side was the world of the first book, providing Detective Inspector Ian Drake with another baffling case.

When Frank Rosen, a ferry’s Chief Engineer is found murdered on the car deck, Drake knows that the killer must still be onboard. But the investigation is complicated when his team is forced to let everyone disembark before a suspect can be identified. A link to drug dealing complicates matters further, especially when different police departments must be involved.

Puleston uses his background as a retired criminal lawyer to lend authenticity and detail to the working of the police and the criminals. Both sides play devious games – fortunately, Drake is not easily fooled in the end.

But he continues to struggle with his OCD as he did in the first book. This idiosyncrasy and his addiction to Sudoku make him a memorable protagonist, although I don’t warm to him. The rest of his team – Caren Waits, Dave Howick and Gareth Winder – have their own traits that we see through Drake’s OCD eyes primarily. I wondered if this was an unusual team or maybe not.

Drake’s Detective Sergeant, Caren had more scenes in her POV than in Book 1, and these helped me get to know her better. POV scenes for Howick and Winder added their perspective but to a lesser extent. Even though Puleston called Caren by her first name throughout, and all the male officers by their surname – which felt strange – I still couldn’t relate to even her.

Conflict weaves its way in the story but comes with the territory even for police with their own rivalries. The domestic tensions are there for Drake and others, echoing real-life experiences of police families as well as the impact of crime on lives.

There are again too many cast members – especially with multiple suspects and witnesses. This is a failing in many books so perhaps forgivable in the final analysis when the plot comes together. A few surprises were in store and most complexities were resolved. But one scene from a different POV confused me – or is to be resolved in the next case.

This is a recommended read and I will be checking out Book #3 as this novel whet my appetite for more from North Wales. The place and people of this beautiful country infused the writing, from scenery to language.

Story – four stars

Characters – four stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – four stars