Comment • reviews • Nordic Noir • whimsy
Today we welcome the ‘blog blitz’ for The TV Detective. Sometimes you need to go back to basics: a police procedural which centres on the puzzle and the main characters. The TV Detective is all about the entertainment: it’s a strong and focused whodunit that demands to be read in a single sitting.
The story sees a reporter placed alongside detectives to help solve the murder of an unpleasant property magnate, Edward Bray. Bray collected enemies the way eight-year-old boys collect Panini stickers and the detectives find enough suspects to make a full set with a couple left over for swaps. Which is a roundabout way of saying that writer Simon Hall has a relish for enjoyable simile – and also an enjoyable tendency towards flippancy.
I’ve often thought that I wouldn’t have the temperament to be a detective and I found the TV guy, Dan, an interesting creation, because at the start of the book it isn;’t clear that he has the temperament either. He has an ear for detail but not an eye as he buys an obviously fake Rolex. He’s drawn as a kind of half-clever, half-stupid everyman and his flaws are not the usual ones for the protagonist of a book such as this. But he comes at the puzzle with a journalist’s skills, teasing out the truth from suspects who would rather keep shtum, and he has a lateral brain that helps crack the case. In the meantime, he provides a rather fun route for exposition. As the newbie at the station, he is the butt of more than one practical joke and there are a couple of rather nice moments where he’s schooled in the art of observation.
If there is tension in the story, it doesn’t really lie in the crime itself, but in the interplay between the characters. Dan has a rocky relationship with the lead detective, Breen, but the real drama occurs twice a day when there’s pressure on Dan to produce a story for his regional TV news bulletin. Will Dan annoy Breen or his slightly-cardboard editor, and what will be the result? Will Dan and Kerry get it together? Dan and Breen make a good double act. From time to time I question how good Breen really is: he seems competent at getting a confession out of people, but I am surprised that the solution – which sort-of-ish occurs to me (though not in full detail) about two thirds of the way through doesn’t come to him. Then there’s a double twist at the end and he is redeemed.
This book could have gone in an entirely different direction and provided lots of social commentary. But I’m quite glad it didn’t. The result is a back-to-basics mystery which is enjoyable to help solve and then put down. A solid piece of work.
Thanks to Fahrenheit Press for the review copy. And do have a look at the rest of the sites taking part in the blitz.