Written by Leigh Russell — Since being shortlisted in 2009 for the CWA’s New Blood Dagger, British crime author Leigh Russell has seen each of her Geraldine Steel mysteries race into the Kindle charts for various crime- and mystery-related categories. She has even come up with a spin-off series focusing on Steel’s popular colleague Ian Peterson, the first of which is due later this year. However with Stop Dead we have the fifth Geraldine Steel book and it’s certainly a case of be careful what you wish for.
Amy is married to Patrick Henshaw, but the marriage can hardly be described as happy. Both parties are carrying on with affairs. Husband Patrick is a very rich man and a serial womaniser, while wife Amy is sleeping with Guy Barrett who is ruggedly handsome and half her age. Desperately in love with Amy, Guy pleads with her to leave her husband, but due to Patrick’s wealth and the security it brings, Amy refuses. Instead, she hints to Guy that the only way out for her is to have Patrick murdered. When Patrick doesn’t return home one evening, it appears that Amy may have got her wish.
Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel is the lead investigator on Patrick’s brutal murder. When the affair between Amy and Guy is uncovered they are automatically the lead suspects since it is fairly logical to assume that either Guy killed Patrick in a lover’s rage, or that they plotted together to kill him for the money. However, the suspects and motive don’t seem so clean cut when another body is found, and this time the victim is Patrick’s business partner George Corless. DNA is present at both crime scenes, but when this evidence is linked to a woman who is in prison, more questions arise. Can Geraldine stop the killer before the bodies start piling up?
During the investigation we find out aspects of Geraldine Steel’s life. She is lonely, having just moved to London from Kent; she has no man in her life; her mother has passed away; and she is estranged from her father. The only family she has is her sister, but with her job being so demanding she doesn’t have much time to talk to her. Understanding more about Geraldine’s life may help you engage more with her as a character. She is likeable enough and there’s an optimistic air that she will follow instincts and solve the murders. The other characters were well described though some – particularly Geraldine’s partner Sam – do not add much to the storyline. Sam lets her imagination run away with her too much, leading to some pretty ridiculous conclusions. As a detective, even a junior one, this character should perhaps have evaluated all the the angles and evidence before making the assumptions she does in the story.
I was slightly worried when I started reading Stop Dead – this is an established series and I haven’t read any of the previous books. However, don’t let that stand in your way, because this can easily be read standalone. The investigation takes a logical route, and the route I imagine I would follow if I were a detective, and this keeps the plot engaging throughout. I must say I did have an inkling as to who the killer was, but wasn’t certain. Stop Dead kept throwing in twists right up until the end, and it’s likely to leave you guessing too.
No Exit Press
CFL Rating: 4 Stars