Monday, January 28, 2013
Die with Me by Elena Forbes
Elena Forbes was a new name to me when I began this first-in-a-series police procedural, though the name Forbes had some resonance. The author managed to create a worthy group of characters that escape being mere copies of their more famous forebears by being younger and more attractive than we usually see among the British and Scottish captains of storied police forces, but just as capable and job-obsessed.
The first chapter and synopsis of this mystery were shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey [New Blood] Debut Dagger in 2005 but forgive me reading public, if I admit I put the book aside after reading that first chapter. But resist this temptation! After the creepy first chapter we are introduced to some successfully realized and interesting characters we can care about: Detective Inspector Tartaglia who doesn’t want to get involved with women who are not emotionally available; a female colleague of his, DS Donovan, who is interested in being involved with a man but doesn’t want to search for one; a police captain Steele (acting Chief Inspector) who is too attracted to an outside contractor whom she hires for more than one job. Forbes manages to land us in the characters’ lives midstream: they share a past and already have a history…we just need to get on board a ship already in motion.
The central conceit is unusual: a serial killer preys on Catholics who wish to take their own lives. To do this, they must overcome their feelings of guilt about it. [I am permitted a snicker of complicity here, as I have overcome my Catholic upbringing.] The killer enjoys their desperation and helps them accomplish their goal even if they should change their minds. The victims are mostly young women, which makes the police look into the cases more closely.
The final scene was also troublesome, but I imagine every first-time mystery writer encounters these difficulties: how to begin and how to end are both equally trying. Overall, Forbes has a strong sense of story and character, and very good potential. I look forward to seeing Our Lady of Pain (Quercus, 2008) and Evil in Return (Quercus, 2011).
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