Written by James Craig — Here we have the second novel staring Inspector John Carlyle, a serious crimes detective based at Charing Cross Police Station in central London. Although I haven’t managed to read it yet, the first in the series was reviewed here. It cleverly re-invents certain real life events providing inspiration for a serial killer mystery, so I was eager to find out what the second book is like.
One night elderly Agatha Mills is watching out the window as a homeless man goes through the garbage in the street below, when she’s beaten over the head. She dies and Carlyle’s crew shows up, immediately suspecting her husband, Henry. He refuses to confess and while waiting to be taken to some holding cells he jumps in front of a van, killing himself. It looks like an open and shut case for the inspector.
However we also get a flashback to Chile in 1973 where Agatha’s brother is serving as a Jesuit priest. The soldiers of Pinochet’s coup round him up, torture him and eventually he’s murdered – that’s what happened to anyone with a socialist leaning. Then, back in contemporary London, a young man steals a bus and blocks the road with it because of the advertising on the side, which questions the existence of God. He and his girlfriend are part of a religous protest which Carlyle clumsily breaks up, resulting in complaints against him.
There are all kinds of other facets and subplots. An prostitute asks Carlyle to scare off her ex-boyfriend, a petty criminal who’s been threatening to kidnap his son. A news reader also asks him for help with a stalker, a drug dealer accidentally shoots himself in the head, and his boss’s husband is arrested for fraud. It’s definitely more than Carlyle can cope with, but how much of it is connected?
The detective himself is dedicated to his wife and daughter, but annoyingly cynical. When he’s interrogating people he thinks mean-spirited wisecracks to himself all the way through. This is often amusing, but sometimes you lose track of any important things that he’s told. Despite his sharp mind, Carlyle is forgetful – the boy gets kidnapped due to his lack of diligence. To top things off, he can’t even drive. However eventually he sees a connection between the murder of Angela Mills, Chile’s arms trade and the religious group… but while he figures it out plenty more people die in unpleasant ways.
Never Apologise, Never Explain makes for an interesting read. Craig has a knack for adapting and altering current affairs creating moments of pastiche and humour in his story. A made up version of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, which his wife is watches, becomes a running joke. The author’s depiction of London is superb, the landmarks and London-types sliding in and out bring plenty of realism to it. However all the layers and threads within the plot trouble the book’s momentum. I was interested in the story rather than gripped by it, and couldn’t quite see how Carlyle had connected things.
James Craig is inspired by Italian crime fiction which often throws up many grey areas and loose ends in its approach to storytelling. Here, not everything is resolved, not everyone gets justice, and Carlyle plods to the story’s conclusion with one or two victories and one or two defeats. The more philosophical crime fiction lover will see that it’s a bit like real life. Never Apologise, Never Explain is a good piece of crime fiction and at 99p on Kindle right now, it’s very worthwhile. If you read it, let us know what you think by commenting below.
Constable & Robinson
CFL Rating: 3 Stars