When Elspeth Price and her dog, Topsy, make a grim discovery on Dartmoor, she is thoroughly delighted. Convinced it is a discovery of archaeological importance, she calls in an expert from Exeter University. Dr Neil Pargeter understands the significance of the find, that this is not a pre-historic ‘bog body’, more a burial site, the bones Topsy found likely belonging to an altogether more recent victim. He calls in the police and the case is assinged to DI Dan Hellier and his team to investigate. As they begin to excavate the body, they begin to realise how hard this case will be. For there is not one body but two and both are missing the elements that could ease identification. Their heads and hands are missing and nobody fitting their limited descriptions has ever been reported missing.
To compound their problems, despite a number of successful raids shutting down a lot of the local drug dealers, a group of teenage boys are admitted to hospital in a serious condition having taken a tainted batch of Mephedrone or MCat, a previously legal high. When one of the teenagers dies, it is down to Hellier and his team to track the source of the drugs before anyone else gets hurt.
With the families of the boys also seeking revenge, an Hellier find out who is responsible before they can mete out their own kind of justice. The investigation brings them a little too close to home for some connected to the team and with some very dangerous men in the frame, Hellier, still haunted by the mistakes of his last major investigation, knows there is a lot to lose if he gets this wrong again.
‘Death and the Good Son’ is a really gripping and intriguing story which I whizzed through in a few hours. From the drugs raid opening, to the discovery of the bodies in the bog, the investigation and the pace never wavers. There is an ever building sense of frustration among the officers about their inability to identify their ‘boggies’ and a growing sense of dread over the chances of a new dealer on the streets selling tainted drugs to unsuspecting teenagers. Although we know who is responsible for selling the drugs early on, we do not know their source and Miss Steadman keenly fills the narrative with misdirection to keep those repsonsible well hidden until the end.
The characters in this book are very well developed. From the straight and somewhat guilt ridden Dan Hellier, to the overly excited, bound to make mistakes rookie, Adam Foster, you have a clear picture of all of them. The sense of team is established really early on. I really liked the dynamic between Hellier and his DS Sally Ellis but all of the team worked and there was a fine balance between compassion and professional for all. And I like the camaraderie which built between Hellier and Dr Pargeter, and his more gentle relationship with Claire. The elements of personal life, for all of the characters in fact, even the suspects, make it easier to relate and to feel invested in the story.
What I really enjoyed, and possibly because I’ve spent a lot of my career working down and around Exeter, was that I could really picture the scene being set. I smiled at the mention of the Countess Wear (how many times have I stayed at that Premier Inn?), I know Topsham, and I could picture the scene as Hellier tried to clamber up onto the M5 as the trucks trundle past on their way to Newquay or Plymouth. I love it when that happens. It makes a book come to life for me.
The chapters are short, and drive the action onward as a result. I was wondering just how, or if, the two cases came together, or if they were just to demonstrate how over worked and underfunded the police forces were. What the author does with these two stories is very clever and she highlights, quite clearly, just how callous and unremorseful one of our perpetrators truly is. She also leads us to question whether true evil is inherent or if it is brought about by conditioning. You can read and make up your own mind.
A very twisty 4 stars from me
My thanks to publishers, Bloodhound Books, for an advance copy of ‘Death and the Good Son’. The book is available to purchase now from the following links: