Deadly Focus by R.C. Bridgestock – A truly gripping police procedural

This is a strongly written book; it may be nearly Christmas in Tandem Bridge, but there is violence, murder, and precious little time for celebrating. Detective Inspector Jack Dylan is introduced and injured within a page, but this appears to be his life. Procedure, order and method must happen, but what happens to the people who have lost, and the people who search, and those who love them? Despite the terrible events covered by this novel, this is all about the people, and it is the power of the descriptions of them that is the strongest element of the book. This book is far from being just a murder mystery; it is more concerned with the process of detection and how that impacts on Dylan and the others involved in the investigation. This powerful novel was sent to me by the publishers, and I was pleased to read this complex yet terribly human novel.

As the novel opens a child goes missing, and the disturbing discovery of her body upsets and disturbs even those who have spent much of their adult lives investigating the sad and distressing circumstances of crime. Dylan has just been injured by a man with a grudge, and  reveals that there is a great secret in his home life: Jen Jones, who works in a nearby building. She seems to be practically perfect; accepting of long hours, exhaustion and not much contribution to the relationship from Dylan. A sounding board for his anxieties, a provider of all comforts, I found her a little too accepting and perhaps lacking in depth. There is always method to fall back on, the established procedure following a murder, the painstaking team work and the pressure on those who lead it. As another child disappears, Dylan and his team must intensify their work to discover the guilty, and prove that guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. Just as the work seems to be succeeding, Jen finds that her priorities dramatically change, and Dylan struggles on so many levels.

This is a gripping book, satisfyingly complex and always pushing forward so that one more chapter calls out to be read. Undoubtedly written by someone well versed in the everyday life of the police force, this is a detailed portrait of how an investigation happens and how the human beings involved cope. The skill of writing a book which is accurate yet incredibly readable is the most impressive thing about this novel; it will rob you of sleep as you must read it on to find out what happens. It has depths of understanding which emerge as Dylan shows his far from perfect personality, and the families of children reveal their overwhelming loss. Not that it wallows in grief in any sense; it is a book which keeps moving and pushing at the different elements of the people involved. I found it an engaging read from which I learnt a lot about how a police establishment works. It is almost photographic in its detail and range, and I found no difficulty in visualising what was going on, as the sights sounds and even smalls are so well described by these talented authors. I believe this book is part of a series; I am desperately keen to read more!

Meanwhile life at the Vicarage has slowed down since Christmas, but there is still a wedding tomorrow and Sunday is, well, Sunday. There is work to do on the M.A., a doctrine course and more family to come (Hooray!) so we will keep active….

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