Written by Keith Nixon — The Corpse Role is the latest novel from our very own contributor Keith Nixon, as the author follows up his quirky Brit grit novel The Fix with his first police procedural.
The central character is DI Charlotte Granger, a tough, no-nonsense Kent police officer who we first meet as she battles her way through undergrowth to view a gruesome find. Where would crime fiction be without inquisitive canines? This time, an errant husky has discovered an obviously old corpse, and the dog has even stolen one of the arm bones! It doesn’t take long for the investigating team to identify the body. It is Paul Wheeler – a name that rings all sorts of bells, as he was the security van driver implicated in a £1.2m heist two years earlier which was never solved. If that wasn’t enough food for thought, Wheeler also had a business card in his wallet bearing the name and contact details for DS Christopher White, a former officer who left the force under something of a cloud and now runs a private detective agency with another ex-cop.
So far, so intriguing. But it isn’t long before Nixon throws another spanner in the works as the story jumps back and focuses on a faceless, nameless protagonist who is being pressurised by local crime kingpin Larry Burns to do something illegal that will earn them both a shedload of cash. From then on, the narrative swaps and changes between the two timelines – which could well leave you tied up in knots wondering what’s happening, to whom, and when.
In the present, Chris White gets wind of the grisly find and decides to cash in his gilt-edged pension plan. He knows who was behind that security van heist and can provide the names. His plan is to contact the crime reporter of a national newspaper to sell his story and then to disappear. All looks rosy but the journalist, Mark King, needs hard evidence before any money can change hands. They agree a time and place to meet and do the exchange, however White only manages to carry out the second part of the plan. He disappears, but it’s before he’s collected the money he wanted. The body count is rising, and could get even higher before this story ends.
The Corpse Role is a good old fashioned cops and robbers tale, populated with a fine cast of characters on both sides of the law that range from the quirky to the downright dull. I found the language a little stilted at times – I hate the word ‘whilst’ – although there are some lovely turns of phrase too. The plot is deftly woven and subtly seeded with little clues to help you along the way but I was still taken aback by the final reveal and felt like kicking myself. Which is just the way it should be.
The Corpse Role is released 10 April. You can also check out the novella Russian Roulette by Keith Nixon here, or read our article on Five of the Best Police Procedurals. You’ll find our 20 Best Crime Shows of All Time here.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars