Head of Zeus, 15 June 2017
I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of this book and for inviting me onto the blogtour.
Rooted in the horror of the Second World War death camps, this book takes the idea that a germ of evil, once released, can never be completely destroyed. Ranging over the 70 since the end of that War, it shows how that evil cam grow, mutate and infect - until it meets Charlie Priest, rogue lawyer and ex-policeman.
Priest heads his own, very peculiar, practice, working not only as an advocate but, bluntly, as a private detective. Some of the usual tropes are there - bit of a shambolic personal life, ex who hates him, drinking, some dark secrets - but also some unusual ones; Charlie has a brother he put away himself for serial killing and he suffers from an usual mental illness that, at times, has him concerned he'll go the same way as William did. (But both of them are brilliant - there's a bit of a Holmes and Mycroft think when they meet and ratiocinate).
Another respect in which the books differs from the template is that Priest isn't a battling loner: he has gathered a team round him, a very smart team. There's Georgie Someday, for example, another young lawyer who has her own secrets and at times seems almost painfully shy, but is as brave and indomitable as a lion and is, covertly, supporting her mum through an invented competition prize (yay Georgie! I really liked her - way before the moment right at the end of the book when she faces her own personal demon and effectively tells it to **** off).
There's Vincent Okoro, another capable and shrewd lawyer - we don't see too much of him, but I hope we willin future. There's 'Solly' Solomon, the geeky, OCD- suffering forensic accountant (OK, maybe that's a bit of a stereotype). Priest lets all of these join in, run with their ideas and work with him rather than hiding things and striking out on his own.
Equally he forms a good partnership with the enigmatic Jessica Ellinder, sister of the man whose death he's hired to investigate. The Ellinder family just happen to own a global pharma business. The family are Important People and after the horrific death of Miles, the patriarch, Kenneth Ellinder, wants answers - and asks Priest to get them.
So begins a frantic chase putting Priest in mortal danger, involving buried secrets, a missing flash drive, a vengeful copper who wants to pin Miles's death on him - and creepy deliveries of a dessicated mayfly sent to a series of victims before they disappear. Invitations to the House of Mayfly... All of this keys into a mysterious postwar operation involving the enigmatic Colonel Ruck and the nazi Doctor Schneider. We see flashbacks of that but never, almost till the end, quite get the whole picture.
It's a compulsive and exciting read, packed with twists and turns and with a real sense of jeopardy and peril. introducing a very distinctive investigator. I'm looking forward to Hazel telling us more about Priest and his team in future books.