The Evil Thereof

The Evil ThereofWritten by Iain McDowall — Iain McDowall was born in Scotland, but now lives in the English Midlands, wherein lies his fictional town of Crowby. Inspector Frank Jacobson last appeared in Envy The Dead (2009), and now he returns as sharp as ever, but with an inch or so more on his waistline and a big question floating around in the back of his mind. Does he pack the job in now, while he has still years left, and move with his partner to a cottage in France? Or, will leaving behind police life be the death of him, first mentally, then physically?

This conundrum has to take a back seat, however, as a series of murders means that Jacobson must focus on the job in hand rather than contemplate a life dozing under a French sun, reading two-day-old British newspapers. The first to die is a young woman with pretensions to be a writer, but with a far less salubrious day job. Katy Bowman sells soft drugs to university students. She has a well established clientele, but steers clear of any of Class A narcotics. Why, Jacobson ponders, has this low risk, moderate return enterprise ended with her strangulation, with cigarette burns on her arms?

When a drug dealer much further up the pecking order than Katy is found tortured and killed, alongside the body of an aristocratic good time girl, police attention begins to focus on a drug empire headed by a local businessman who has been a key target for the Serious and Organised Crime Agency – SOCA – for some time. SOCA’s desire to nail the top man clashes with Jacobson’s need to catch the killer, and the situation is not helped by the conflicting needs of catching criminals while protecting informants. Also, we become aware that one of the police officers on the case is much too close to those he is meant to be hunting; close enough, in fact, for the metaphorical – and literal –  brown envelope to change hands.

We can tag this novel perfectly fairly as a police procedural, but it goes some way beyond that. McDowall makes a serious effort to bring to life the other characters, some of whom are certainly not sympathetic to the average law abiding reader. This breadth of treatment lifts it above the humdrum ‘cop and killer’ trope and, without giving the game away, it is one of the minor characters who plays a decisive – if surprising –  role in the climax. My only criticism of this well-written and gripping novel, is that you become aware of the motivation behind the killings well before Jacobson and his officers finally realise what is going on. When the proverbial penny finally drops for the investigators, thanks to a chance remark from a drug-addled musician and painter, I was tempted to ask, “What took you so long?”

According to his website, McDowall has decided to abandon co-operation with conventional publishing houses, and set up his own digital imprint giving himself full editorial control. He has done himself proud in this respect, and we have an elegantly written and well presented novel. The title? It comes from The Sermon on the Mount, as reported in Matthew 6:34. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof .” I believe that this means we should not obsess too much about future problems because tomorrow will come soon enough. I do know, however, that beneath the enigmatic title, we have a superior work of crime fiction.

Sedge Publishing
Kindle
£1.99

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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