Written by Elena Forbes — After a lengthy hiatus, Elena Forbes returns here with a fourth edition in her DI Mark Tartaglia series, set in London.
Tartaglia’s colleague Sam Donovan has left the force, deeply affected by the traumatic events of the previous book. These are succinctly covered for those new to the series, but her woes are compounded by a nasty murder at a hotel. The victim is revealed to be someone close to her. Obviously this sends her into a tailspin, and also has an impact on the likeable and dashing Tartaglia. He’d spent the night in the very same hotel with a lady, only to return the next day to look into the murder.
His relationship with Donovan has been both personal and professional over the series. Alongside the hotel killing, Tartaglia is investigating the discovery of a body in a burnt out car. However, a little forensics reveals that this particular body was made up of parts from four different people. With another grisly discovery made on bonfire night, Tartaglia finds himself under mounting pressure from all corners to solve this macabre mystery and catch The Jigsaw Man of the title.
Forbes’ books are always skilfully plotted and even here, where the murders are of an outlandish nature, her natural flair and assured narrative will carry you through the peaks and troughs of her protagonists’ experiences. However, a dash of suspension of disbelief is required when the true nature of the jigsaw killings are revealed, though there is an enjoyable nod towards Patricia Highsmith, particularly The Talented Mr Ripley. With the catchy premise of bodies comprised of parts from several victims, the author has plenty of scope to bring several plot strands together and build up a picture of the unusual culprit. Another strand involves Donovan and her new trauma, and it’s delightful the way this unfolds, exploring her relationship with Tartaglia a little more along the way.
If you are new to the series, and particularly so if you’re a female reader, you’ll be more than a little intrigued by Tartaglia. I rather enjoy his relaxed attitude to the whole idea of romance or lasting relationships, and his sister’s not-so-gentle prodding to get himself a good woman. He’s a natural flirt, but becomes more serious towards Donovan when their paths cross again and he discovers that some assumptions he made in the past could be quite wrong. Donovan herself is an interesting character too, grappling with grief and anger, yet with a tremendous fighting spirit in her quest for justice. Both characters easily command the central stage of the book as the horrific events unfold around them, with both experiencing their own cruel and unusual travails.
This is an enjoyable and recommended addition to the police procedural genre. With its satisfyingly twisty plot, engaging characters, and the interesting exploration of the mind of a murderer, Forbes returns with a winner.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars