Written by Neil White – The coupling of journalist and police detective is a well-worn crime fiction convention; as reassuring as any literary model, from the tragic anti-hero to gritty underdog. Neil White’s latest escapade for journalist Jack Garrett and Detective Sergeant Laura McGanity isn’t quite so typical, and Cold Kill – White’s fifth outing for the pair – is all the more gripping because of it.
The story begins in White’s Blackley, Lancashire, with the gruesome discovery of a young woman’s mutilated body. It is the second grisly murder of its kind, and immediately the author deploys Garrett and McGanity as investigative foils: on the one hand, press speculation and insinuation linking the murders; offset by the meticulous, procedural nature of the official police investigation on the other.
It becomes clear that the two bodies are linked in more ways than appear obvious. One is the daughter of a policeman, the other of a local gangland boss. And as Garrett and McGanity’s investigations unfold, the links between each crime become more evident, building into a climactic race against time to find the killer and prevent them striking again.
So far, so typical – as plotlines go it is far from mould-breaking stuff. However, White’s experience as a criminal prosecutor, mixed with his exacting, dynamic dialogue and pinpoint descriptive writing makes Cold Kill a convincing read. There’s a real sense of the investigation slowly being pieced together, and White uses each of his main characters’ qualities to split this puzzle in two. While Garrett goes at the story with a reporter’s eye, chasing hunches and persuading people to talk off the record, McGanity uses her policing instinct and routine tenacity to build a broader picture of each crime. This amounts to a terrific literary tool, with the reader benefiting from each perspective and enabling them to draw their own conclusions, compare and contrast witness accounts and leads, and question assumptions.
Without giving the ending away, White builds to his climactic scene with ease, never straining or forcing the pace. The ending is inspired, with a terrific plot twist that neatly ties up each loose end without falling into the trap of convenience or implausibility. White’s plotlines may, on the surface, tread a well-worn path. But his imagination, characterisation and deft use of his investigative duo marks Cold Kill out as a real gem. The Kindle edition’s a steal at 99p.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars