Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: 'Murder in Little Venice' 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 4 – the first books are MURDER IS A TRICKY BUSINESS, MURDER HOUSE, MURDER WITHOUT REASON, MURDER IS ONLY A NUMBER, and MURDER IN LITTLE VENICE.

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: ‘To those who lived on the houseboats that lined either side or the cyclists and the walkers who regularly used its towpaths, the Regent’s Canal was a place of beauty. Only a few would know of its history, and that two hundred years previously it had been busy with barges shipping cargo from the seafaring vessels that docked at Limehouse on the River Thames, to connect with the Grand Canal, and then up through England. Even fewer would know that it was named after Prince Regent, a frivolous man, the son of a mad King. He was better known for his grossly expensive tastes in decorating palaces and wasting money, although some others may have known of his penchant for mistresses, including the infamous Mrs Fitzherbert. Such history was far from the mind of Mary Harding as she walked her dog along the towpath between Westbourne Terrace Road Bridge and Harrow Road in an area of London known as Little Venice. It was still early, and it was only her and her dog, a sprightly Jack Russell. She had walked that stretch of the canal many times before and still enjoyed the atmosphere. She looked up at the elegant Regency houses as she walked; wished she could afford to buy one but knew she probably never would. She glanced over at the water, and sometimes into the open windows on the houseboats: some were modern and luxurious, others were run-down. The smell of early morning cooked breakfasts pervaded the air. Mary Harding maintained her pace, trying to rein in the dog as it tugged on its lead. A waste of money for dog training, she thought.’ Scene set with only a hint of what is to come.

The story is distilled well in Phillip’s synopsis: ‘A dismembered corpse floats in the canal in Little Venice, an upmarket tourist haven in London. The identity is unknown, but what is the significance? DCI Isaac Cook is baffled as to why it’s there. Is it gang-related, or is it something more? Whatever the reason, it’s clearly a warning, and Isaac and his team are sure it’s not the last body that they’ll have to deal with.’

Elegant writing and a keen sense of suspense – this is another Phillip Strang winner! Grady Harp, September 17
I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it.

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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