Friday, September 8, 2017

Review of Love Story, With Murders by Harry Bingham (Hachette, 2013)

When a human leg is discovered in the garage freezer of a house being cleared after the death of its elderly occupant DC Fiona Griffiths is first on the scene. Soon carefully packaged body parts are being found in gardens, sheds and houses all over the surrounding neighbourhood. Then human remains from another body are discovered scattered by a nearby reservoir.  While the first victim, a young woman, seems to have been killed a few years beforehand, the second, a Moroccan-born engineer from the local university, is much more recent. Cardiff’s CID rapidly mobilises, but they have hundreds of persons of interest and no clear link between the victims. Griffiths is determined to remain a part of the investigation to the point where she’ll bend the rules to make sure she’s involved. Her antics place her in grave danger, though Griffiths is no stranger to peril or death given that she’s recovering from Cotard’s Syndrome and her psychotic episodes give her a unique perspective on life and cases.

Love Story, With Murders is the second instalment of the Fiona Griffiths series set in Cardiff, Wales. There are two key strengths to story. The first is the lead character, a complex, unconventional, socially awkward, risk-taking, young woman with an interesting back story. When she’s not creating or rushing headlong into a situation, she’s highly reflective, aware that she lacks emotional intelligence and needs to act how she thinks a ‘normal’ person might do.  The second is the voice; Bingham tells the tale through a highly engaging first person narrative.  In terms of plot, Bingham weaves together three main strands: the murders of a young woman and a Moroccan-born engineer, a suicide at a local prison, and Griffiths’ investigation of her father (a high profile criminal in the city) and her unconventional adoption when she was two. It’s an interesting mix, leading to a story that zips along and is bursting with intrigue, though some it seems to rely a little too much on coincidence and is somewhat far-fetched at times. Nonetheless, it’s a gripping read and it’s a real pleasure to spent time with Fiona Griffiths, a unique character in a genre full of stereotypes and tropes.

1 comment:

Mack said...

I found about this series about a month ago and since then have been compulsively reading the books. I just finished book 5. I agree with your comments about "coincidence" and "far-fetched" and they apply to all the books but they are so well-written and Fiona is such a compelling character I don't care.

The first person narrative works well here. The reader needs to be inside Fiona's head. I am also impressed at how well Bingham writes from a female viewpoint. At least in my opinion but my wife did comment that the author does a good job there so I feel validated.

The central crime(s) in each book feature technical details that are presented in an interesting but totally not an infodump way.

You mentioned the common threads of Fiona looking into her background which includes her father's time as a crime boss but there are other threads -- details omitted to avoid possible spoilers-- that make me recommend that these books be read in order.

Oh, and if you sign up for Harry Bingham's newsletter you also get a short story from when Fiona was a uniformed rookie.

This is a first-rate police procedural series that highly recommend.