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Quercus Editions Ltd, 14 July 2016. 2016. ISBN 978 1 78087 977 2
Blackwater is the first in
what I believe is planned to be a period police procedural series. Set in
the garrison town of Colchester during the celebrations for the 1983 New Year,
it introduces Detective Inspector Nicholas Lowry who is approaching forty,
Detective Constable Daniel Kenton, a bright young graduate who had been fast
tracked into CID, and WPC Jane Gabriel, a tall, attractive ex-model with short,
Colchester barracks is currently home to troops recently returned from
the Falklands campaign. But the war has been over for six months, and the
heroic status of the young soldiers has given way to complaints from the locals
about their unruly behaviour. Many of these young soldiers are out on the
streets drinking-in the New Year when a report arrives that one of their number
has fallen to his death from a wall in the Castle Park. Further away out
of town, a headless body is discovered in six inches of water on a causeway
linking Mersea Island with the mainland. What, if anything, connects
these two events?
We are told that the use of drugs by both the police and the military
was common in that era. The means by which army regulars cater for this
need forms the backbone of this tale.
Colleagues at the Mersea police station are more of a hindrance than a
help. They are a law unto themselves and a thorn in the side of DC Kenton who
has the strange idea that the person who commits the crime is the person who
should be punished for it, rather than a local felon that the Mersea
constabulary elects to punish because it suits them to do so.
Lowry is also frustrated by the Red CAP’s - military police –tendency to hijack
witnesses and victims who are servicemen by taking them back into the Barracks
or sending them overseas, thus preventing Lowry from questioning them.
Although Blackwater is a long
(485 pages) and complicated tale, it is an easy read with a good mix of other
characters. These include Chief Superintendent Sparks who is about to get
married for the third time, his – most of the time - friend Brigadier Lane, a
piano playing Red Cap Captain, and numerous young soldiers and local yokels.
There is also a fair sprinkling of personal data. At forty, Lowry has
decided to give up smoking and boxing and take up bird watching. One
feels he might do better to watch his wife who is a nurse, or his young son:
the one is having a fling with a doctor at the hospital she works in, and the
other – who has grown up spending the odd night in the cells when both parents
are out - is probably being bullied at school. Anyone who likes period
police procedurals is bound to enjoy this book.
Reviewer Angela Crowther
James Henryis the pen name for
James Gurbutt, who has written three prequels to R D Wingfield’s popular Frost
series. He works in publishing,
Angela Crowtheris a retired
scientist. She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime
fiction. In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group,
goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi