Published by Allison and Busby, 19 July 2018. ISBN: 978-0-7490-2288-4
The book opens with a meeting of The Plot and Monument Committee of a Cambridge College who are planning to buy a plot of land upon which they will erect a monument to honour an erstwhile member, the late Sir Percival Biggs-Brookby. This apparently simple task is complicated by college politics and by the struggle for power between the committee, who wish to employ a competent and inexpensive local sculptor, and Sir Percival’s daughter, Gloria, who intends to force them to use a fashionable and much costlier sculptor from London.
Professor Cedric Dillworthy had loathed Sir Percival, and, as his friend Felix Smythe so tactlessly points out, Cedric has frequently referred to Sir Percival in disparaging terms, but that does not prevent him from agreeing to become one of the benefactors contributing to the memorial. After all the benefactors’ names will be on permanent display next to the statue and Cedric longs to be immortalised in Cambridge; also, he needs some triumph to counter Felix’s boastful attitude regarding the Royal Warrant granted by the Queen Mother to his flower shop.
When Cedric is invited to Cambridge to participate in the preparations for the monument, he invites Felix to accompany him. Coincidentally, Rosie Gilchrist is also in Cambridge, attending a reunion at Newnham College. Cedric, Felix and Rosie have already been involved in the investigation of violent crime and it seems that they attract disaster. It is not long before a storm of malevolent phone calls, blackmail and murder bursts over Cambridge’s previously civilised colleges and the trio find themselves embroiled in a series of uncomfortable, undignified and downright dangerous situations.
The Cambridge Plot is the fifth book in the series featuring Cedric Dillworthy and Felix Smythe. It is beautifully written, clever, witty and delightfully absurd, with engaging characters that it is impossible not to like, despite their flaws. An easy to read book that is great fun.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
“Truth will come to sight; murder cannot be hid long.”
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
‘Salt Lane’ byWilliam Shaw
Published by Riverrun, 3 May 2018. ISBN: 978-0-00-818120-8 (HB)
It's always good to get in at the start of a promising new series, especially when the author has already demonstrated his sure hand with both plot and character in earlier work. Salt Lane is William Shaw's first venture into the contemporary police procedural in series form, but neither form nor location is unfamiliar territory.
In fact, it's not even the first time his lead character, Detective Sergeant Alexandra Cupidi, has made an appearance. In his standalone Birdwatcher she is the protagonist's sidekick, but clearly made enough of an impression on him to stick around for her own series. Alex is an exile from the Met, transferred to rural Kent following a disastrous affair with a colleague (why is it always the woman who has to move on?) and finding that serious crime isn't exclusively the domain of the big city.
There's a strong topical theme in the form of illegal immigrant workers; and an interesting puzzle arises when the identity of a dead woman is called into question by her son, who claims to have seen her alive some days after her purported death. Add in a young woman detective too keen for her own safety, and Cupidi's daughter with far too much teenage angst for comfort, and it's soon plain that things are going to get a lot more complicated.
The story starts to resemble one of those spider diagrams TV cops use to form connections between apparently disparate elements of a case. One line goes back into London, Cupidi's old stamping ground. Another stretches into the desolate marshland on the fringes of the Kent countryside. Yet another feeds back to the 1980s, the Greenham Common camp and the Peace Convoy.
The characters are very much the kind you feel go on existing when you close the book. Between a tendency to open mouth without brain in gear, a daughter who hardly talks to her and a mother with hardly a maternal cell in her body, Cupidi's home and work lives promise to be interesting to say the least. Jill Ferriter, the young detective, has plenty of room to develop and shows distinct signs that she will. Their boss DI McAdam exhibits a vulnerable streak senior detectives are usually reluctant to admit to.
Not only is Salt Lane rich with characters, landscape and a tautly and evocatively written story with plenty of emotional undertow; it also carries the promise of a series which could run and run. And William Shaw is a name who could be popping up on shortlists for awards in the not too distant future.