Bonnie and Clyde: a notorious pair of killers and robbers who terrorised central USA in the time of the Great Depression. Their crimes made them famous, and that fame was rekindled in the late 1960s with a movie starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and a song that gave Georgie Fame a number one hit in the UK around the same period. Now they serve as the inspiration for Fiona Cummins’ latest crime fiction novel.
You really wouldn’t want to meet Missy and Fox. They’re young, without scruples, and out to make themselves famous in the most bloodthirsty manner imaginable. They’re about to embark on a killing spree and nothing will stand between this pair and infamy.
It all begins so innocuously, with a primary school teacher arriving late and a little hung over for her day in the classroom in Midtown, a quiet little place on the British coast. Melissa Smith’s day is about to get much, much worse though. As she hurriedly leaves the school a short time later, a child is lying prone on the floor, struggling to breathe. It’s the first sign that Melissa ‘Missy’ Smith is a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
Soon she is on the run, and has hooked up with her former boyfriend, Dashiell ‘Fox’ Lloyd, who is freshly out of prison and the baddest of the bad. Together, they will wreak a trail of havoc and dead bodies across the UK, starting close to home before heading up to Scotland with their arsenal of guns.
Meanwhile, Christine Hardwicke has packed her children, Galen, 13 and eight-year-old Tom, into the car and set off from Essex on an adventure to see the dolphins at Chanonry Point in the Moray Firth of Scotland. It is 10 months since her husband Charlie left and the trip is a special treat. Sadly, as the book opens, Christine and the kids have already met Missy and Fox. That really doesn’t bode well.
So, two narrative threads are about to become entangled, but Fiona Cummins isn’t content to leave it there. After all, this is the second book in a series featuring DC Saul Anguish and his colleague and sometime partner, forensic linguist Dr Clover March, AKA Blue. Anyone who read the first in the series, Into The Dark, will know that this is another dysfunctional pairing. However, if you’re new to Anguish and Blue, then their relationship and past history may take a little time to assimilate.
All of Us Are Broken is a frustrating read. It boasts myriad strong plot lines and a cast of well drawn characters, against a lavishly rendered landscape but something doesn’t quite gel. Is it the embarrassment of riches in the plotting department? There’s enough here for two, if not three, cracking good books. Or is it the fact that Saul Anguish is so hard to find any empathy with? His tendency to steal little bits of evidence from crime scenes is both annoying and unrealistic, as is Blue’s narcolepsy, which would surely stop her from working.
As I ponder these questions, I also hat tip to an author who might well be laying things on thick but is also no stranger to nuance and surprise. There are some lovely little fol-de-rols in play – including the fact that Fox has a physical quirk in common with his hero, Clyde Barrow (and they both have brothers of the same name), and the family dynamic of the Hardwickes is heartbreakingly true to life.
Both aspects add some lightness to a book that often veers towards the dark and gut-wrenching but unlike Cummins’ brilliant debut Rattle, somehow doesn’t quite hit the spot. Fans of DC Saul Anguish will probably feel right at home in his latest outing, but if you’re on the hunt for a standalone read then this may not be the book you’re looking for.
Find some more tartan-tinged reads in our Gazetteer of British Crime: Scotland.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars