Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book Review: 'Murder is only a Number' by Phillip Strang

Australian author Phillip Strang has gained his platform as an adventure writer through his career installing telecommunications networks in many remote and exotic parts of the globe, including time spent in Afghanistan and Pakistan - an experience that allowed him to gain direct insights in to the ongoing conflicts there. He has also spent considerable time in Africa including Liberia, Nigeria, and Guinea. It is this direct contact with troubled countries that gives his books intense credibility: he has first hand contact with the events he shares in his books such as DCI Cook Thriller Series, of which this is Book 3 – the first two books are MURDER IS A TRICKY BUSINESS, MURDER HOUSE, MURDER WITHOUT REASON, and now MURDER IS ONLY A NUMBER.

But it takes more than on the spot witness to bring the story Phillip has written to life in the format of a book - and that is where he towers above others creating novels with similar storylines. To bring a story of this magnitude into focus it is imperative that the foundation of the place and the people are presented accurately in order to bring the terror that is to come to meaningful life. Phillip sets his stage well form the very first page: ‘Stephanie Chalmers realised that her life was not as it should be. On the one hand, she had a husband who loved her; on the other, he was a lecherous bastard who would chase anyone half decent in a skirt. It was not as though she was beaten, or impoverished, or even neglected. Gregory Chalmers, she knew, had been a good catch when she had met him ten years previously. He had only been thirty-two then, two years older than her. Already, he had his own legal practice and was doing well. He had an easy way with words and an attractive physique with a full head of black hair. Sure, she had heard about his reputation, but she was confident she could tame him, the same way she had tamed a previous boyfriend, but that damn fool went and got himself killed in a motor accident. A tragedy as she saw it, considering all the effort she had put into the relationship. She had loved the previous boyfriend with the all-consuming passion reserved for the young and susceptible; she had no intention of repeating that mistake by falling for Gregory, her future husband, only ultimately to be disappointed. It had taken six months before he proposed to her, wed her, and then bedded her, but not necessarily in that order. She knew that he would continue to love her intensely; she knew how to do that, but she would only feel a strong affection. Still, she had reasoned, it was a good arrangement, and for nine of the ten years they had been fine.’ Scene set with only a hint of what is to come.

The story is distilled well in Phillip’s synopsis: ‘Before she left she carved a number in blood on his chest. But why the number 2, if this was her first murder? A woman stalks London. She kills at will. Her targets are men who have wronged her, or have they? What is behind her hatred and why is she keeping count? DCI Cook and his team know who she is, at least after she has killed the first four, but the woman disappears in plain sight. The pressure’s on to stop her, but she’s always one step ahead. And this time, DCS Goddard can’t protect his protégé, Isaac Cook, from the wrath of the new commissioner at the Met.’

Elegant writing and a keen sense of suspense – this is another Phillip Strang winner! Grady Harp, July 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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