Thursday, December 31, 2020

Review of The Killing Bay by Chris Ould (2017, Titan Books)

An international mix of anti-whalers have gathered in the Faroe Islands determined to stop the killing of pilot whales. The day after an unsuccessful attempt to save a pod of whales being driven by boats onto the shore the official photographer of the protest group is found murdered. The body has been arranged in a staged manner and evidence is directed to a local fisherman, who happens to be the son-in-law of a CID officer, Hjalti Hentze. Once a suspect is named Hentze absents himself from the case. The fisherman claims to be innocent but is generally uncooperative with the police. The man in charge is determined to follow the single line of inquiry despite the circumstantial nature of the evidence and clear indications of outside interference in the case. Sure that there is much more going on and unhappy with how their superiors are handling the murder case, Hentze and some of his like-minded colleagues pick away from the sidelines, ruffling a few feathers in the process. They are aided by Jan Reyna, a British police officer who is visiting the islands, looking into the early life of his mother.

The Killing Bay is the second book in the Faroes series featuring British police officer, Jan Reyna, and local detective Hjalti Hentze. This outing is set just a few days after the first, with Reyna still on the island, taking a break to try to find out more details about his mother’s life on the islands. One thread of the story follows Reyna’s family investigation, told in the first person. The other, told in the third person, follows the investigation into the death of an activist photographer, who had been a member of anti-whaling protest group. The chief suspect is Hentze’s son-in-law, who had met his former girlfriend on a number of occasions over the previous weeks and whose alibi does not stand up to scrutiny. Hentze absents himself from the case, but the way it is being managed and interference from outside authorities spurs him to take covert interest. While Hentze and a couple of colleagues do most of the running, they occasionally turn to Reyna for help. Ould creates a decent sense of place and both threads are intriguing, though the family inquiry is a little threadbare, and the murder a little drawn-out. There was no great surprise in the denouement, but that was fine as there’s nice character development and both threads were interesting journeys.


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