Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review of This Thing of Darkness by Harry Bingham (Orion, 2015)

Fiona Griffiths is recovering from a long-term stint of undercover work and studying for her sergeant’s exam while browsing through cold cases. Two cases take her interest: a seemingly impossible burglary and the death of a security guard ruled as accidental. Just as she starts to poke around she’s pulled back into active service and given the tedious job processing evidence on a rape case. Her bosses, however, allow her to snoop around her cold cases as long as she keeps on top of her main duties. From slight pieces of evidence she manages to pry open chinks that suggest foul play in both cases. Then she discovers another body in a different jurisdiction, a seeming suicide but there are links to the other cases: impossible access and deep-sea cables. Seizing on tenuous links and skirting on or over the edges of police procedure she stitches together a conspiracy worth millions. But who’s going to listen to a lowly detective constable that often seems away with the fairies?

This Thing of Darkness is the fourth book in the Fiona Griffiths series set in Cardiff and South Wales. In this outing, Fiona is back to negotiating life without Buzz, and still struggling with her mental health and with following police procedure and the law. The larger criminal conspiracy that she’s been piecing together across the series comes to the fore, while her family and personal life recede. While working on a rape case, she spends any free time focusing attention on two deaths – one ruled accidental, the other suicide – and a handful of seemingly impossible burglaries. Other officers struggle to see the crimes for what they are, let alone the connections between them, but Fiona has a mind that works laterally and relentlessly. What Fiona sees is a play for millions; a scheme worth killing for. As with the previous books, Bingham does an excellent job at continuing to spin Fiona’s character development and advancing the longer arcs of the series with respect to her personal life (her adoption, her condition, and her criminal father) and her tangle with a set of dodgy Welsh businessmen. The plot is a little convoluted, unspooling and interlinking a handful of plotlines and subplots, and it’s sometimes tricky to see quite how Fiona made her deductions (for me, in solving the rape case), but narrative is so seductively readable and the story highly compelling and entertaining that it barely matters. Another excellent addition to the series.

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