Written by Keith Nixon — To his embarrassment, it requires a bobby to let DI Solomon Gray know that something untoward is happening to the junkies in Ramsgate. Gray is an old-fashioned copper, much more comfortable working the streets than a computer, and to find himself ignorant of events on his patch is a wake up call.
Archie Nolan, one time school friend of Gray’s daughter, Hope, is the latest casualty. Tragic it may be, but Gray was ready to accept Nolan was just another statistic, a preventable but predictable victim of his habits. Only the intervention of PC Boughton alerts him to the fact that the mortality rate for Ramsgate’s addicts has tripled over the last year.
Operation Pivot, of which Gray’s girlfriend Emily Wyatt is an officer, is a special initiative involving collaboration between the various police forces of the South East of England in an attempt to tackle the drug trade which frequently crosses county lines and therefore jurisdictions. The result is that drug crime is down, but then why are fatalities up? Boughton doesn’t know the answer but can point Gray in the direction of an informant who may be able to help.
Meanwhile, Gray’s boss DCI Yvonne Hamson has a job for him. Her predecessor’s PA, Sylvia Carslake, has reported her husband missing. Jasper is a manager at a haulage company and hasn’t come home. Sylvia admits to some relationship difficulties and that Jasper liked a drink but is insistent that going missing for a day is out of character.
This is Keith Nixon’s fifth Solomon Gray novel, a series which follows the comic intrigue of the Konstantin books. Most are set in Kent and as ever Nixon succeeds in bringing the faded glamour of its seaside resorts to life, warts and all. He is equally adept at managing our expectations of a police procedural. Gray pursues both enquiries to their end in a methodical manner that never cheats us. He never gets the solution handed to him, he has to work the cases.
Nixon sweetens the recipe with rivalry, thwarted ambition, a suggestion of corruption, and even a moral dilemma for Gray, confronted with the attention of a younger colleague. The only complaint was that the mystery is a little straightforward. The plot could have done with having its waters muddied a little.
The Gray novels have sold over 150,000 copies, testament to their readability, and judging by the cliff-hangar ending to Pity the Dead, fans have more to look forward to in the future.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars