Written by Leigh Russell — In 2009, Leigh Russell was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger for Cut Short, the first book to feature DI Geraldine Steel. Killer Plan is number seven and I was looking forward to finally sampling a series which had hitherto passed me by. Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver and Peter James are all quoted in the pre-publication publicity pack, so it all boded well.
The story opens as a mother is snatching some well-earned ‘me’ time with a few minutes peace on a London park bench as her 10-year-old twin boys let off steam nearby. Caroline Henderson is somewhat dismayed when a man sits down next to her and that dismay turns to shock when he addresses her by her maiden name. Brian, it transpires, went to primary school with her and as the pair get chatting he reveals that he is a widower and his wife committed suicide three years ago.
It’s a sad story and Caroline finds herself reciprocating by letting slip that her husband is unfaithful. It’s a revelation she will shortly live to regret. The seemingly affable Brian offers to go around and give Caroline’s husband Dave a bit of a shock. He takes a selfie of them both and says he plans to show it to Dave while pretending they have been having a fling too. She agrees – what could possibly go wrong?
The following day, while Caroline takes her boys Matthew and Ed to football practice, Brian calls on Dave. Within minutes, the poor unsuspecting adulterer is dead, bludgeoned to death with one of his own spades in his garden shed. A distraught Caroline knows that Brian did it – but her old school pal now wants her to return the favour and kill a man she has never met. When she protests, he threatens to tell all if the police come a calling. As Caroline dithers, one of her sons goes missing. What is she to do?
DI Geraldine Steel is part of the team investigating Dave Henderson’s murder and she is convinced that Caroline knows more than she is telling, but before she can pursue the matter any further, a second death sends her life into a tailspin. Geraldine is still very much the new girl in Serious Crime Command but the latest victim is someone she has come to know very well. However, if she is to hold onto her career she will have to tread very carefully.
There are a whole cat’s cradle of threads going on in this book and at times it is hard to unravel them as the narrative jumps from one character to another. Followers of the series are probably well used to Geraldine’s continual soul-searching but I found her a tad irritating.
This is not a book where the whodunit is ever in doubt, but there were times when I despaired of the people who were supposed to be finding him. The police work described here is half-hearted at times, with the officers stuck on desk duty at local police stations coming off particularly badly. I’ve also lost count of the number of books I’ve read recently where the central character decides on a whim to go off on their own without back-up, like some avenging hero in an old black and white Western movie. I’m sure that fans of the series will enjoy reacquainting themselves with Leigh Russell’s work, but this time Steel lacks an edge.
No Exit Press
CFL Rating: 3 Stars