Plain Dead by Andy Maslen

Today I turn my attention back to the DI Ford series by Andy Maslen with a review of the latest book in the series, Plain Dead. My thanks to publisher Thomas & Mercer for the. advance copy via Netgalley. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 25 November 2021
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

About the Book

Suicide or murder? DI Ford is sure there’s a killer to catch, but time is running out.

A young female soldier is found on Salisbury Plain, her throat cut and a bloody knife in her dead hand. Everyone assumes that she killed herself. But something doesn’t feel right to DI Ford; the whole scene seems staged. Convinced of foul play, and despite fierce opposition from the army brass and his own superiors, Ford launches a murder investigation.

Years on from his wife’s death, Ford is still struggling with guilt and whether or not to tell his son the truth about what really happened. When his CSI partner confronts him about the tragedy, he knows he has to confess sooner or later. But the living can wait; the dead are calling. With the victim’s regiment due to deploy to Somalia, taking any suspects and evidence with them, Ford has just days to apprehend the killer.

His career on the line and his relationship with his son in the balance, Ford has to work fast if he is going to bring justice to the dead—and closure to the living.

My Thoughts

Plain Dead is a book that is packed with mystery and misdirection, and which sees Ford and his team drawn into the sphere of the Ministry of Defence, the victim being a serving soldier who is murdered upon one of their ranges. Due to the nature of the location, the cast of characters who might feasibly be brought forth as suspects, and the very fact that the whole regiment are due to deploy within days, there is a real sense of urgency to the story, one which drives the action and makes it a tense, charged and often fractious ticking clock kind of mystery. Many want to dismiss the case as suicide, Ford is far from convinced, but time, and the commanding officers, are definitely against him if he intends to prove otherwise.

The book looks carefully at a very difficult, but still very relevant subject, one which once uncovered, really starts to make the story make sense. It explores the issue of women in frontline roles in the military, and the inherent prejudices and limitations assigned to the role. But those prejudices are not always directed from where, or whom, you might expect. The author plays it very canny, not coming down on either side of the argument but carefully presenting the for and against in a way that makes you realise that perhaps there is no easy answer, and that what might be easily dismissed as old fashioned misogyny, is perhaps a little more complicated. There are many other issues addressed, ones which are perhaps a little more overt and whilst not acceptable or accepted, sadly almost expected, even now. It led to a very sorry conclusion to the investigation, one which can still shock but that was probably not surprising after all.

I’ve really loved getting to know DI ‘Henry’ Ford and Hannah Fellowes over the course of the three books. Ford is a complex character, suffering a touch of PTSD after the death of his wife, which means that sometimes his judgment can be brought into question. Fellowes has her own quirk of character which makes her interpretation of a situation often quite literal and always to the point. They make a brilliant duo, and compliment each other in terms of personality and skill set. They need all of that combined cunning in this particular case, but with Ford also distracted by personal matters, you can see his past trauma’s coming to the fore. Andy Maslen has done a great job of weaving this into Ford’s day to day life, driving the conflict and infusing Ford with even more determination to prove all he asserts is true. It made me more invested in the story, trusting Ford’s instincts far and above where the evidence may initially lead. Seeing the conflict between Ford and his son, his hesitance in allowing him to follow his own dreams, for very obvious reasons, adds a really touching and emotional aspect to the story that I really enjoyed seeing explored.

Another tense, complex and enthralling instalment in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About the Author

Andy writes thrillers across a number of genres: police procedurals, vigilante, psychological, suspense and horror. He spent 30 years in business before turning to writing full time.

Readers praise Andy’s novels for their sense of place, kinetic action sequences, realistic dialogue and realistic depiction of the effects of conflict on minds and bodies. And for his meticulous research into police procedure around the world.

He is the creator of best-selling series featuring Gabriel Wolfe, Stella Cole and Inspector Ford, plus standalone novels and short stories.

He lives in Wiltshire.

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