A headless body, a follow-up murder that appears unrelated until grisly evidence arrives in the mail. A serial killer is on the loose and as the body count rises, DI Lorne Simpkins finds that she is short of clues and time is running out.
Cruel Justice is the first book (chronologically) of a series of crime mysteries featuring DI Lorne Simpkins. I have to say up-front that I did not like this novel at all, but before I launch into a list of things I didn’t like I thought I’d cover the one aspect that I thought was admirable – the prose itself.
Not only was the book I read completely error free, but although I might have had an issue or two with the effectiveness of the writing in certain scenes, there was nothing amateur-ish about the sentence construction. I thought, overall, it was effective and of publishable quality. It might seem like an insignificant aspect of the novel to praise, but for me, it’s worthy of mention.
That stated, not much else about the novel delighted me. I had noticed that this book was labelled by some as a police procedural. It was a terribly unfair label for this novel and I wish I hadn’t seen it before reading. I would have lost all faith in any police force that had operatives functioning the way DI Simpkins did in this novel. The most noticeable aspect of her investigative procedures were that they did not exist – at all. She was a muddle of impulses and gut feelings to the point where she would simply ignore or refuse to investigate the most obvious leads – not even to ensure that they were logically eliminated.
She could not have come across less like a real DI if she had followed leads from a psychic. Oh wait – she did! Not only that, but when the psychic’s visions were actually concrete, there was no questioning of said psychic as a suspect. Our intrepid investigator instead decided to try and get her added as an ancillary resource to the case. I’m serious.
If the detective’s lack of credibility wasn’t bad enough, the book also felt a bit like an impostor. It is pushed by the author as a gritty thriller. Although there is an obvious effort to make the story dark and disturbing, it seems a little bolted on. The first scene, in particular, tries to take the reader to a dark place, but it felt totally lifeless to me. I felt no atmosphere, none of the fear or horror I should have felt with such a scene. It read like an express train to disgusting in an effort to quickly guarantee the classification of the novel.
So if I didn’t think it was a gritty thriller, or a police procedural, what did I think it was? In my opinion, this novel felt like a romance that attempted to cross genre boundaries. Simpkins seems to play the part of a “woe is me” woman whose husband is selfish because he doesn’t continue to shut up and support her regardless of the impact on his own life. Her marriage is threatened because of his selfishness and completely beyond her control – hmmmm. At this time, she suddenly develops a strong attraction to a work colleague. Apparently, she had nothing but distaste for him, but is now all aquiver; his handsome appearance and his French accent turning becalmed waters into a choppy sea of confusion – and hormones. To top it off, her superior retires to be replaced by a man with whom she had a “past”. Complications abound in Simpkins’ life. How is she going to cope with all these men? How is she going to save her marriage? How is she going to solve this crime?
In fairness to the author, I’m exaggerating the romantic melodrama for effect. For a romance suspense cross-over it could well be that these elements were on point. Unfortunately, it came across to me as a romance in a clumsy costume, which brings me to my conclusion.
Grain of salt time. This was, quite clearly, not a book for me. I don’t have much exposure to romance suspense cross-overs and usually avoid them. It was perhaps an error of judgement on my part to choose this book for review and I can’t guarantee that I’m giving it the most appropriate perspective. Additionally, it seems that this series is quite popular, with plenty of fans who are obviously getting something out of it that I am not. However, if you happen to be more aligned with my tastes when it comes to crime mysteries and gritty thrillers, perhaps this review is useful.
Price at the time of review: $0.99 US
Available: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo and iTunes
Author site: http://melcomley.blogspot.com.au/
GoodReads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12758464-cruel-justice