Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Book Review: 'Murder in Notting Hill' 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 6 – the first books are 1- MURDER IS A TRICKY BUSINESS, 2 - MURDER HOUSE, 3 - MURDER IS ONLY A NUMBER, - 4 MURDER IN LITTLE VENICE, 5 - MURDER IS THE ONLY OPTION, and 6 – MURDER ON NOTTING HILL.

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: ‘A smart upmarket terrace house in Holland Park, a council flat in Notting Hill, and they appeared to have nothing in common apart from one significant fact: a murder at each location. In Holland Park, Amelia Brice, a socialite, the young daughter of a well-respected and very white media personality; in Notting Hill, Christine Devon, a forty-year-old domestic cleaner with no money, three children, and black. The deaths were identical: a plastic bag over the head, clearly garrotted. Detective Chief Inspector Isaac Cook, a man who appreciated the occasional weekend off but rarely seemed to get it, knew that once again the Homicide department at Challis Street Police Station was in for a busy few weeks. Not one murder this time, but two on the same day. ‘I’d say they were killed within one hour of each other,’ Gordon Windsor, the station’s crime scene examiner, said. A man used to death, he expressed neither remorse nor delight. He was a man doing his job, without emotion. Isaac, a tall, good-looking man, Jamaican by heritage, English by birth, and his colleague, Detective Inspector Larry Hill, a man now in his mid-forties, and putting on weight much to the chagrin of his wife, formed a good team. Their sergeant, Wendy Gladstone, staving off retirement, somehow passing the medicals, even if her arthritis was not getting better, was back at the station. ‘Any ideas?’ Isaac said to Larry. Both men were in Notting Hill, looking at the body of Christine Devon, the black woman. It was clear that she had put up a struggle. ‘What ideas? From what I’ve been able to gather from the youngest son, fifteen, a bit of a tearaway, he came home at four this afternoon and found her dead.’ ‘Tearaway?’ ‘Gang member probably. We’ve got enough around here: poorly educated, chip on their collective shoulders.’

And from this scene the plot begins – ‘One murderer, two bodies, two locations, and the murders have been committed within an hour of the other. There’s a connection, but what is it? They’re separated by a couple of miles, and neither woman has anything in common with the other. Isaac Cook and his team at Challis Street Police Station are baffled as to why. One of the women is young and wealthy, the daughter of a famous man; the other is poor and hardworking and unknown. ‘

DCI Isaac seems to have more stories about his prowess and his unique personality than any other contemporary ongoing crime controller. Strang has him so well defined that we’d recognize him were he to walk in the room. And that is fine writing in a fine series. Thriller with all the additives. Grady Harp, January18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

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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