D for Death’s Door – Azure Spark. Part 4

[This story will be posted in full after the Challenge for those of us that like to read everything in one complete telling,]

DEATH’S DOOR – Tuesday Evening

Diving dangers are numerous and as many as driving too fast along the curving Welsh roads back to Porthmadog. Most can be avoided with less haste and with the correct training.

Speed feeds my adrenaline desire. Directed.

Is discipline why the two guys went on a deep-water course in Cardiff? Which course?

When I reach CID, I report my thoughts.

“If our victims were on a diving course in Cardiff, it should be possible to discover which centre and when they finished.”

Kama agrees to contact her former SWP colleagues.

“A friend from the Pontypridd station is now with a Cardiff division, so will do me a favour.”

A twinge of jealousy. Broken breath. Burning stomach.

But friend means working relationship. Like the demeanour we display for our colleagues. Do any of them really know or suspect? Unlikely. We’ve tried to be discreet.

“While you make the call, I’ll check if there any responses to our public request for information on the photos we released of the two guys.”

I scan the feed-back. I weed out the helpful-unhelpful suggestions that we usually receive. Not quite hoaxes but well-meaning time wasters. However, there are two confirming what I learnt from Guto Thomas, that the two men were from the Nefyn area. But three others claim that the men were from Dolgellau.

Were our victims using aliases? Who are they? Were their reasons for attending a diving course coincidental?

The sea has her moods. She needs to be treated with deference. Restoring a boat and learning how to dive responsibly are decisive moves.

I shiver. Close my eyes. Death awaits us if we make mistakes in the wild water. Invigorating yet powerful. Waves break over me as I drive my path forwards. Thrills. Diving is another step I should embrace more. The deep-sea depths tempt me. Warm shivers up my spine.

A shared smile.

“My friend received confirmation from one of the South Wales training centres that Ellis Evans and Vic Vaughn were on their Advanced Open Water course on Thursday.”

“Before the storm. Did they complete the course?”

“Yes. They had already done a weekend. So, all phases were completed, including the final deep-water assessment in Saint Bride’s Bay. We were lucky that the course trainer took the call from my friend and the trainer said that Evans and Vaughn left with a couple in a 4 x 4 on Friday evening.”

“Any description of the driver?”

“A middle-aged couple. The woman driver was described as exotic. The 4 x 4 had sign-writing – Göteborg Electric Engineers.”

I squeeze Kama’s hand across our linked desks as she leans forward and hands me her notepad.

On it are the details from South Wales, including the company name. Plus, a red heart. Our smiles will have to last us until we are in bed at home.

Focus.

I enter the search for our lead. Minimal Internet presence, just an address in Caernarfon.

E for Electric and Engineers. A for Aliases and Assault. D for Diving and Dangers. G for Göteborg.

EGAD for the English. But for us Welsh, GAED. Am I on the edge of a discovery?

For further details on this theme visit my Blogging from A to Z Theme Reveal, and on the evolution of Sparkle Anwyl visit Snowdon Shadows.

Other A to Z Bloggers can be found via the Blogging from A to Z website’s Master List –
http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/2019/03/link-to-view-master-list-and.html

^*^

And now for something completely different.

“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
William Congreve – The Mourning Bride

Brass in Pocket – a review

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.

BrassInPocket 

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.

Talking to the Dead – a review

Time for another review of a novel linked to my own writing.

Some months ago, my character of D.S. Sparkle Anwyl began to emerge, becoming the detective embroiled in “Seeking A Knife”. However, I had some problems making her believably Welsh. It was no good just living in Snowdonia, I needed more to work with.  So I embarked on extensive research. There was fiction reading as well, since I wanted to avoid plagiarising Welsh detectives, like Constable Evan Evans.

Then I discovered DC Fiona Griffiths and the bar was raised.

 TalkingToTheDead17552649

Talking to the Dead (Fiona Griffiths #1)

by Harry Bingham

The first novel in a powerfully original new crime series featuring a young policewoman haunted by her own dark past.

It’s DC Fiona Griffiths’ first murder case – and she’s in at the deep end. A woman and her six-year-old daughter killed with chilling brutality in a dingy flat. The only clue: the platinum bank card of a long-dead tycoon, found amidst the squalor.

DC Griffiths has already proved herself dedicated to the job, but there’s another side to her she is less keen to reveal. Something to do with a mysterious two-year gap in her CV, her strange inability to cry – and a disconcerting familiarity with corpses.

Fiona is desperate to put the past behind her but as more gruesome killings follow, the case leads her inexorably back into those dark places in her own mind where another dead girl is waiting to be found…

My review:

Fiona ‘Fi’ Griffiths might be a junior officer assigned to a fraud investigation, but she’s willing to manoeuvre herself onto the team investigating the murders in a dingy flat. Her intelligence, among other clever moves and clandestine activities, is a key factor in her unravelling the links between the two cases. I knew that she would struggle until the justice that she demanded was implemented; but I was never quite sure whether she would prevail.

Those brains have earned her a degree, and set her apart from many colleagues. [Note: The College of Policing has proposed that, “Every new constable from 2019 could be required to have a degree – or agree to work towards an equivalent qualification.]

This active mind is a facet of a complex character that is well described through her POV. That voice is distinctive, revealing and never feels like the author. The voice of Fi kept me reading, wanting her to battle through everything thrown at her, some from outside and some from in herself, or in her past.

But it becomes clear from Fi’s words that she struggles to be part of ‘Planet Normal’ and the author makes that part of her engrossing personality. Her weirdness worked for me, leading the reader down murky paths on Cardiff’s darker side, and in her mind.

Fi is not your conventional detective, nor are her methods. She is a complex character and she shoves the investigation in unexpected directions. The author weaves words and phrases with style, bringing this world of Cardiff alive, for me at least. This was a different Wales from the area I know – Snowdonia – and yet there were glimpses of the rural roots at the country’s heart, and those roots are an intrinsic part of Fi.

Some readers have criticised the writer for creating a policewoman that would fail her first psych test. But I’m with those that realise that her intelligence gives Fi the edge in working the system in her favour. There were moments when I felt she might be bending the rules precariously, but she has the ability – and luck – to evade crashing over the precipice, this time. And if she can confuse her colleagues, what chance have the criminals.

The novel is not just about an investigation – that would make this just another crime read. This is about Fi and her personal attitudes, demons, and questions, so I’m full of praise for the way that Harry Bingham pulls this off, especially in the final chapter. A superb read that compels me to read the rest of the series.

*

As for my own detective and similarities, Fi and Sparkle are… a whole country apart, and more. Fi is from South Wales, Sparkle from the North and Snowdonia. Both quirky yes but not in the same way. No University education for Sparkle, she’s got her experience on the beat…and with the bullies at school. Sparkle’s deductive techniques are not Fi’s, although they might work together. And their means of dealing with criminals is very different.

No real comparison, but a definite benchmark.