Written by Ed Chatterton — He has had a long and successful career as a children’s writer under the name Martin Chatterton, but Ed Chatterton is a relative newbie to the crime fiction genre. Down Among The Dead Men is his second crime novel, and it once again features DCI Frank Keane, who was introduced in A Dark Place To Die. Dead Men is something of a two-centre arrangement, with the first half set in Liverpool, before the action moves to Los Angeles. And that split personality really works in a book blessed – or should that be cursed? – with a multi-dimensional villain in the form of Ben Noone.
Noone is an unknown American actor who is due to make his big screen debut in The Tunnels, an independent movie being filmed in the historic Williamson Tunnels which meander beneath the Edge Hill area of Liverpool. He’s putting in an impressive performance before the cameras but the film’s writer, Dean Quinner, has the distinct feeling that Noone is not all that he appears. As the book progresses, we learn that Quinner’s instincts are correct – but not before there are dead bodies left, right and centre.
As boss of the Merseyside Police Major Incident team, it isn’t surprising that Frank Keane is called to the scene of a particularly grisly double death in one of Liverpool’s poshest suburbs. At first glance it looks like a murder suicide, but there’s something off about the carefully posed crime scene. And there’s a further complication – the teenage son of the two dead dentists is missing… and he just happens to have been working on the set of The Tunnels with his uncle, the brother of the man hanging in the well-kept garage.
It isn’t long before the team are interviewing everyone involved with the movie, and Frank can tell from the off that Noone is his man. But as events unfold, he finds it more and more difficult to convince anyone else that he’s right, and when filming ends, Noone is free to return home to the USA. You can’t keep a good cop down though, and Frank’s wheeling and dealing lands him a ticket to LA and an appointment with the man he believes to be a serial killer.
The plot of Down Among The Dead Men is as labyrinthine as the tunnels which play such an important part in the early chapters. It has depth of character and meticulous detail, and the prose races along with a level of suspense that will have you gasping. Chatterton has real skill at getting inside the heads of his characters, taking the reader to places they’ve probably never been before – and likely won’t want to visit again in a hurry!
Everything revolves around Frank Keane, who is a first-class cop with his fair share of flaws and foibles. These make him a realistic and sympathetic character. The supporting cast is as raggle-taggle a bunch as you’ll have met for a while, and Noone is a brilliantly conceived bad guy.
The story ends with a major cliff hanger that is going to make book three veeeeery interesting. I suggest you add Ed Chatterton to that ever-growing list of must-read authors.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars