Following our introduction to DC Fiona Griffiths in Talking to the Dead, where, for me, the book hook sank its barb in deep, I was nearly let of the hook in Love Story with Murders, which was not as good, but with The Strange Death, Harry sank the gaff well in behind my gills and there was no escape. I loved it.
This third in the series was as breathrobbing a thriller as I have ever read. It brought home to me what a ninny I must be as I put it down, heart pounding, to give myself time to recover. Mr Bingham’s tension waves are acutely built and released. Aspirant thriller writers, please take notes as to how it should be done. Visit www.writersworkshop.co.uk
Preferably, the three books should be enjoyed sequentially, because Fiona’s cracked character develops gradually as she slowly finds a firmer footing on Planet Normal. Her character is as totally original as it is unusual. Our world is seen through her eyes, and how she astutely deals with that world is fascinating. Her background is defined by her not-total recovery from Cotard’s Delusion, or Walking Corpse Syndrome, a very rare mental affliction in which the patient believes that they are dead. Also part of her background which she would like to unveil is that she was found abandoned as a babe and adopted by a warm-hearted man of dubious legal character. The support of her family is of huge value to her, and these, as well as her colleagues in the Cardiff Police are deeply sketched by Harry Bingham. The baddies are equally well portrayed.
For my money, the tautest situations anywhere are found in the undercover agent scenario, which is Fiona’s role in this story. Where she seems to be in most danger is that her assumed role might swallow her own fragile persona, here an office cleaner and a wage clerk employed by a criminal gang implanting computer programs that will siphon off hundreds of millions from large companies into offshore accounts.
The previous police officer attempting to infiltrate the gang has disappeared. Others that have crossed them have been butchered. Fiona’s superiors warn her of the danger of her mission as they become aware of the brutality of the gang, but she refuses to extricate herself.
The tale may start as a snail and include possibly tedious mathematical explanations as to the mechanics of the scam, which I found it fascinating, but it surely ended like a bullet. Brilliant, Harry!