Written by Bill Todd — This collection opens with the bright and breezy novella, Gargoyle Pixie Dog. Private detective Danny Lancaster, who features in all the stories, is a partly disabled army veteran plying his trade on the streets of Brighton. The seaside town offers a backdrop of fading Georgian splendour, gay subculture, drugs and antique shops.
Lancaster is used to working for all manner of clients, but when an elderly down-and-out man asks him to trace a missing person, he has little hope of a fat cheque at the end of the mission. A young woman has gone missing. Cat is a street artist, earning a few pounds from generous pedestrians as she brightens the pavements with her chalks. When the hacked up body of a young woman answering Cat’s description is found, Lancaster fears the worst. Armed only with photos of Cat’s last creation – now rapidly fading from the pavement – Lancaster discovers, thanks to a friendly art dealer, that Cat has left the world a message. The Gargoyle, The Pixie and The Dog are three separate entities which hold the key to the mystery.
Lancaster generally has a rule that he won’t touch matrimonial cases, but in The Cuckolds Calling he makes an exception because he’s short of money. What follows is a rather queasy and sexually explicit tour of the less salubrious habits of some of Brighton’s population. Selfie, too, is an explicit story – this time involving revealing photos of a woman taken on a smartphone and shared online. Lancaster tracks down the culprit, a promising young footballer, and solves the case in a novel manner. The Hooded Man is the strongest of the stories. A grief stricken young man gets some kind of justice after his girlfriend is murdered, and the killer receives it in a Brighton lock-up garage.
RAF veteran Lloyd Hamilton has had a long and happy life. Hitler never managed to lay a hand on him, but when he dies suddenly his daughter turns to Danny Lancaster for answers. The Germans Can’t Kill Me takes Lancaster on the search for an ingenious mode of murder. Bill Todd sends up the camp world of fashion design in Inside Job. For a few hectic hours Lancaster becomes Poirot as he searches for a fabled diamond stolen behind the locked doors of a fashion show. The collection ends with Sudden Death which sees the detective abandon his Poirot persona for that of Jack Reacher. A vendetta against an ageing gangster ends violently on a Sussex pig farm.
The sexual content of the stories is rather clumsily handled, but Gargoyle Pixie Dog is a perfectly readable and entertaining collection of short stories. While it may not take anyone’s breath away, it will certainly make a diverting holiday read. Danny Lancaster is a decent and thoughtful man. He is as resourceful and straightforward as the day is long, and provided you are not in search of a tortured soul who is pondering the meaning of life itself, he makes a reliable companion across these seven stories.
Gargyole Pixie Dog comes out 24 July. For more short stories, click here.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars