Crime novel set in London (London has a new detective)

22nd January 2015

The Murder Bag by Tony Parsons, crime novel set in LONDON.

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Bill Board at the London Book Fair 2014

Introducing DC Max Wolfe, single parent to his daughter, Scout, dog owner, and triple espresso drinker. His home base is near Smithfield Market, his work base at Saville Row. The story opens with the abuse of a young woman by several young men, she cannot escape, her time is up.

Soon there is a very brutal murder that Wolfe has to investigate. It has all the hallmarks of the push and pull of a commando knife, a perfect execution to the neck – but who is out there who would know where to source such a double-edged knife and indeed how to use such a clinical way to despatch a victim? The plot thickens as more bodies turn up, with similar injuries, and soon DC Wolfe, too, becomes a target of the vicious killer. Is this a serial killer or are there more perpetrators on the loose? Where does the young woman at the beginning fit it in?

Much of the focus settles on Potter’s Field, a public school that already existed at the time of Henry VIII – the monarch’s beloved dogs are buried in the school grounds (A potter’s field, incidentally is a pauper’s burial site, barren after the extraction of potter’s clay, leaving the ground useless for any other purpose).

The Murder Bag is a studied piece of police procedural and methodology and it is full of interesting facts:

IMG_2833There is the Metropolitan Police Crime Museum (The Black Museum, Room 101) at Saville Row, a teaching aid established in the Victorian era which houses a plethora of villainous tools of crime. The murder bag itself is a forensic bag used at murder scenes.

This is a solid crime novel but overall lacks the light and elegant touch of some of Wolfe’s European counterparts such as Andrea Camilleri’s detective, Inspector Montalbano (Camilleri incidentally wrote a book called Potter’s Field featuring Montalbano); but The Murder Bag is very much in the new wave stable of gruesome modern European murder stories by, for example, Pierre LeMaitre and Anna Jaquiery, both set in Paris.

Following the current trend, many of those interviewed by the police during their investigations in this novel, respond in a peremptory and hostile way when questioned. This is a feature in so many crime and detective novels at the moment, that it seems the norm, but I wonder whether most people, when under questioning, wouldn’t actually be more compliant? And, heavens above, the sex scene! I haven’t read something quite so coy and, frankly, Victorian in a while! “Later when we lay side by side and I knew her for the first time, my hands moved across those long limbs and skin that was as white as unbroken snow”. (An an odd simile to be sure, as snow, to my mind, has the smack of cellulite about it).

This is a novel, set in London, where the ‘majestic sites of London’ mingle with an edgy and robust storyline, so it is a great book for exploring the seamier side of the capital through the pages of a gripping story.

Will DC Wolfe become the new detective that we associate with London, our very own city detective? Tony Parson’s next book featuring DC Wolfe is The Slaughter Man (out in May 2015). The Murder Bag appears in the Richard and Judy Spring 2015 good reads list.

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