Written by Graham Hurley — Here’s a book that will quickly grab your attention, and possibly that of any recently consumed meals as well. The story begins when a doctor is found disembowelled in a Devon cottage bedroom which resembles a charnel house. Amid the viscera, the police discover a foetus… which has been beheaded. Via all this mutilation, Graham Hurley sets out to bring us a villain so nasty and sickening that you’ll have no trouble rooting for the side of justice throughout The Order of Things.
The grisly death of Harriet Reilly points to a perpetrator either totally mad, or wanting to make a grim physiological gesture. Is the murder scene an elaborately staged message? If so, to whom? Detective Sergeant Jimmy Suttle wants to keep things simple, and looks for the owner of the cottage, a fiercely committed meteorologist who is obsessed with the imminent catastrophe of climate change. One problem. Alois Bentner is nowhere to be found
As Operation Buzzard gets into full swing, the search for Bentner becomes the be-all and end-all for the police team. The scientist is renowned for his survival skills. Is he camping out on Dartmoor? Is he living rough in the woods? Suttle has his own problems. He is estranged from his journalist wife Lizzy. A couple of years earlier, their daughter was abducted by a mentally ill woman. The case ended horrifically, with the woman launching herself from a high window – clutching Grace Suttle to her breast. Lizzy has dealt with the trauma by writing a best-selling book about the affair, but now she is researching another story about family doctors who are prepared to assist the death of mortally ill patients. Her investigations lead her in one direction – that of Harriet Reilly.
Lizzy’s relentless search for a story acts as a kind of Baroque counterpoint to Jimmy’s attempts to find Harriet Reilly’s killer. The lines weave in and out of each other, but when they finally resolve, the result is not a sweet harmony, but a violent clash. The conclusion of this excellent is breathtaking and chilling. The murderer is brought to book, but not before us readers – along with Suttle’s police colleagues – are forced to question his judgment and his motives.
One charge that could never be leveled at Graham Hurley is that of being faint-hearted. He took what seemed to be a huge professional risk when he killed off Joe Faraday – one of the most intriguing and complex fictional coppers to grace the genre. To then replace him with the previously enigmatic Jimmy Suttle – a bit player in the Faraday books – showed either lunacy, or maybe genius. Four books in, Suttle is now established, with his own personal devils to face. Hurley is also completely unafraid to give us a warts-and-all portrait of the man. While we might admire his perception as a policeman, we also know that he is capable of making personal choices that few would find totally admirable.
This book more than lives up to the previous three, which you can link to from our review of Sins of the Father. It succeeds on several levels. It is a superb police procedural, not least because Hurley keeps Suttle as a relatively lowly detective sergeant, rather than the DI which has become the clichéd rank in today’s British crime fiction; it is a very cleverly manipulated whodunnit, with a trickle-down conclusion that contains one final twist; away from the police station, we have some memorable characters who are convincing if not always likable; and lastly we have one of the nastiest and most menacing villains – both physically and mentally – that you are likely to encounter.
The Order of Things is released 19 November. For more more crime novels set in the South West of England, check out our Gazetteer of British Crime for the region.
CFL rating: 5 Stars