Written by James Craig — London Calling is journalist James Craig’s debut novel and the first in his series featuring his somewhat cynical fortysomething detective, Inspector John Carlyle. The second book in the series, Never Apologise Never Explain, is due to be published in January. And a third book, Buckingham Palace Blues, is already planned for January 2013.
A general election is looming but a killer is lurking in the shadows intent on dispatching various former members of the exclusive Merrion Club. This hedonistic group of young men once thrived on exerting their power over others regardless of the pain their behaviour inflicted (and you might see parallels here with the Bullingdon Club at Oxford, where London mayor Boris Johnson met PM David Cameron). Among the killer’s targets are the man set to be Britain’s next prime minister, Edgar Carlton, and his brother Xavier.
When a note announcing the death of Merrion member Ian Blake is delivered to Charing Cross police station, it’s Inspector Carlyle who finds himself heading off to one of London’s elite hotels to investigate. Faced with a horrific crime scene, he has to track down the killer before he can reach his ultimate victim. But why are these men being singled out and could it be linked to their antics as students back in the 1980s?
The past plays an important role as it helps the reader understand the motivation behind the killings, as well as the manner of their deaths. The murder scenes are graphic and those of a sensitive disposition may find them unsettling, but the reason behind this later becomes clear. The victims themselves are not what you’d call likeable. There’s a swaggering arrogance about the Carlton brothers and they have a strong belief that as members of the ruling class, lording it over others is simply their birthright. Nothing and nobody is going to get in their way, even someone intent on dispatching them.
Throughout the book we see flashbacks of Carlyle as a young police officer in the 1980s and his role during the miners’ strike. He’s risen through the ranks through grit and determination and proving he won’t conform to anything he doesn’t believe to be right, which has made him unpopular with colleagues in the force. Essentially, the reader is getting to see what makes Carlyle the copper he is, and why he’s the best man for this case.
One aspect of this book that is particularly enjoyable is how the author has turned London itself into a character. He wants his reader to get to know the city he clearly knows extremely well, both geographically and historically. You’ll see London as Carlyle does, which helps to draw you deeper into the story.
As debut novels go, this was quite a thrilling read. Some scenes in the book may not be to everyone’s taste but there is more to this book than graphic sex and violence. A great start for a promising new detective, and a good deal at £3.22 on Kindle.
Constable & Robinson
CFL Rating: 4 stars