Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox. I found this book when I attended an Orion panel at Harrogate last year and, with a mixture of ghosts and crime, it sounded right up my street. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
WHO BETTER TO SOLVE A MURDER THAN A DEAD DETECTIVE?
When Detective Inspector Joe Lazarus storms a Lincolnshire farmhouse, he expects to bring down a notorious drug gang; instead, he discovers his own dead body and a spirit guide called Daisy-May.
She’s there to enlist him to the Dying Squad, a spectral police force made up of the recently deceased. Joe soon realises there are fates far worse than death. To escape being stuck in purgatory, he must solve his own murder.
Reluctantly partnering with Daisy-May, Joe faces dangers from both the living and the dead in the quest to find his killer – before they kill again.
Is there a finer name for a character than Joe Lazarus, a Detective who rises from the dead (sort of) in order to solve his own murder? He may not have been a benefactor of the talents of Jesus but, as we are set to find out, there is something about Joe that has seen his fates ordained by that other almighty presence, his old Dad Himself. He may not show his face during the course of the book, but that’s not to say He doesn’t have a hand in what comes to pass. And what that is is a wonderful blend of Detective fiction with more than a touch of the Supernatural that really does bring a smile to my face. It’s original, it’s quirky, and it features some fabulous, and often surprising, characters.
The story opens with Joe keeping an old farmhouse under surveillance. He expects to be taking part in a raid which will bring down a big drug gang. What he finds comes as somewhat of a surprise to him – but not to readers who are vigilant to have checked out the blurb first. For Joe quickly wrong-footed. First by a pesky young girl, Daisy-May, who seems intent on getting in his way and ruining any element of surprise that he may have had, but, perhaps more importantly, by the discovery of his own body in an upstairs room in the house. What follows is a journey of discovery that leads Joe to Purgatory and then on the hunt for his own killer – and that of his new found partner in crime solving, the smart and sassy, Daisy-May.
I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t what I expected at all. I knew the basic premise from the author’s description, the idea that this was going to feature a team of ghosts turned crime-busters, but it is so much more than that. Yes, it has all of the hallmarks of a true crime fiction novel – the hunt for clues as to what happened on that fateful night, the double crossing and blindsiding that Joe experiences, and the discovery of some very uncomfortable truths along the way. In that respect it is a true Detective novel, even if the investigators have no jurisdiction and little to now ability to physically make an impact on the perpetrators of the crimes. But beyond that it is a very intriguing sci-fi style novel that takes readers to the ‘other side’, not to Heaven or Hell, but to Purgatory – a kind of holding cell for the also rans. No sinners and no saints, just an almost senseless, mindless mass of people stuck in a holding pattern that has been their prison for centuries. At least, that’s what the powers that be think. There is aback story here, one which I feel will bleed into future novels and I am very intrigued to see how that will pan out.
I really liked Joe and Daisy-May as a team. They couldn’t be more different and, as we are set to find out, there are many things about the pair of them which will come as a surprise to everyone, them included. I liked the way in which the author used a clever narrative device to ensure that they began to discover the truth in the same way, and time, that readers did, their ghostly essence being affected by the air that they used to breath. The longer they remain soil-side, the more scrambled their brains and memories become, meaning that keeping on top of the investigation is hard and the revelations hard hitting. Don’t get me wrong, Joe could be a pompous idiot, and Daisy-May was sometimes too smart mouthed for her own good, getting a kick out of winding up Joe as, ironically given their former statuses, the more seasoned and experienced investigator. But Daisy-May was a wonderful character – kind and considerate which was a nice counter to Joe’s often blunt blundering and less than positive character traits. Then there was the Duchess, the matriarchal figure in charge of Purgatory and the person who set Joe and Daisy-May on their quest. She is quite a difficult character, old fashioned in approach perhaps, and bound by a sense of duty and tradition, but she has a clear affection for Daisy-May, and that made her a more palatable person to get to know.
That pacing in this book is spot on, the revelations perfectly timed to make the biggest impact. Despite this being a very serious subject, and those elements of the story are never trivialised, it has a good vein of humour which kept me smiling, and often laughing, and I felt compelled to keep on reading. The ending was fitting, Joe being able to redeem himself for some of his more unpalatable character flaws, and has left me all the more intrigued by what might be yet to come. Definitely recommended for fans of Detective fiction with a twist.
About the Author
Adam is a London-based filmmaker who’s shot commercials for brands such as McLaren, Primark and Vice, and music videos for Britpop veterans as well as fresh on the scene alt-country stars. He began his film career by writing and directing three features: the first sold to Netflix; the second and third won awards and critical acclaim at festivals worldwide. A graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course, The Dying Squad is Adam’s debut novel.
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