Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…except when people keep turning up dead!
Murder by The Seaside is Brian Gee’s debut for novel Panther and it is a corker. Set in the English coastal town of Hastings, somewhere I haven’t actually been to, you might think there would be plenty of fish and chips, some bathing in the sun, maybe paddling in the sea and wandering the countless gift shops whilst eating hot donuts. None of that here I’m afraid.
What we do get is a brilliant murder mystery, some great characters and an insight to the finer workings of police investigation.
The story revolves mostly around three characters. We have Crofts, the police SOCO. Basically the technical term for the ‘CSI’s’ you see on TV. We have Bethany, a young waitress with a troubled childhood, trying to find her way in the world, keeping herself to herself and lastly there’s Stevie. Stevie is a middle aged man with a failing marriage, a failed business, two children he adores and a mysterious friend who seemingly pops up in Stevie’s hour of need to offer him a chance at turning his life around.
Very quickly we are introduced to Crofts and the scene of a crime where the body of a dead Junkie is found in an abandoned hovel-come-drug den and Gee walks us through in great detail, the processes of everything from crime scene preservation, evidence logging, how to sweep surrounding rooms, photography and everything in between.
It’s safe to say I have never experienced this level of detail in fiction before when concerning proper police procedure. Gee has really done his homework here.
The action is slow to begin with and the detailing verged on becoming too heavy but not quite. One by one we are introduced to the main cast and the chapters flick effortlessly and expertly from viewpoint to viewpoint, not always taking place at the same time but the writing easily conveys the sense that what you just read in the previous chapter may have been weeks or months ahead of what you are reading now without ever coming right out and saying so.
The characters are all well founded and I found their backstories genuinely interesting. You even start to feel a bit of empathy for certain characters before the story takes you down the dark and bloodstained rabbit hole and reveals them to be someone you really did not expect.
The seemingly separate story lines and characters who appear to have nothing to do with each other start to come together around the midpoint. That’s the point where you might want to start thinking about picking up your jaw from the floor. After that, the story is carried full steam ahead to a conclusion that is both satisfying and abrupt. The detail seems to fall off a little and I did find myself wandering at points how we got here but none the less everything does tie together and the reader is not left chasing loose ends.
All in all, Brian Gee’s debut murder mystery is a fantastic effort. Well written and well paced once you get past all the Police jargon in the first few chapters. Highly recommended and I look forward to the next instalment in the series.
As always, a huge thank you to the great folks at Panther Publishing for the digital copy and the chance to review.