Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Book Review: 'Murder of a Silent Man' 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, 6 – MURDER ON NOTTING HILL, 7- MURDER IN ROOM 346 and 8 – MURDER OF A SILENT MAN.

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: ‘‘No one gave much credence to the man when he was alive. In fact, most people never knew who he was, although those who had lived in the area for many years recognised the tired-looking and shabbily dressed man as he shuffled along, regular as clockwork on a Thursday at seven in the evening, to the local off-licence. It was always the same: a bottle of whisky, premium brand, and a packet of cigarettes. He paid his money over the counter, took hold of the plastic bag containing his purchases, and then walked back down the road with the same rhythmic shuffle. He said not one word to anyone on the street or in the shop. Apart from the three-storey mansion where he lived, one of the best residences on one of the best streets in London, with its windows permanently shuttered, no one would have regarded him as anything other than homeless and destitute. Just a harmless eccentric, until the morning when he was found dead in his front garden. ‘Never spoken to him, and that’s the honest truth,’ Jim Porter said. He was a lean man with a pronounced chin, and a strong Cockney accent. ‘I’ve been delivering letters down this street for the last twelve years. Seeing him lying there was the first time I’d ever seen him. Down at the sorting office we called him Ebenezer, no chance of a tip at Christmas, not so much as a thank you. No doubt we shouldn’t have, but he’s lived in that place for over thirty years, and not one word to my predecessor or me. Weird, if you ask me.’ Detective Chief Inspector Isaac Cook looked at the postman. ‘You found the body?’ he said. Tall, the son of Jamaican immigrants, and the first in his family to go to university, the first to join the police force, Isaac Cook was an impressive man, as well as a good police officer. Others had told him so, but he was not a man susceptible to flattery, even if he had to admit there was a modicum of truth. ‘More by chance. I could see the letterbox was full, the letters no longer going through the slot, and I couldn’t take them back with me,’ Porter said. ‘What do you do when that happens?’ ‘I can’t remember it happening before. Mind you, not many people get letters these days, only bills. I knew about the man inside, so I thought I’d look around, see if I could find a stick or something to push the letters through. Otherwise, he could have been lying there for God knows how long’.… Isaac Cook was not sure about the man. He looked over at the letterbox, noticed that the slot was clear. If the man had found a body, why would he have cleared the letterbox? Isaac decided to say nothing. Once back at Challis Street Police Station, he’d ask Bridget Halloran to check out Jim Porter, the postman, as well as the mansion’s owner, Gilbert Lawrence.’

And from this scene the plot begins – ‘A murdered recluse. A property empire. A disinherited family. All the ingredients for murder. No one gave much credence to the man when he was alive. In fact, most people never knew who he was, although those who had lived in the area for many years recognised the tired-looking and shabbily-dressed man as he shuffled along, regular as clockwork on a Thursday afternoon at seven in the evening to the local off-licence. It was always the same: a bottle of whisky, premium brand, and a packet of cigarettes. He paid his money over the counter, took hold of his plastic bag containing his purchases, and then walked back down the road with the same rhythmic shuffle. He said not one word to anyone on the street or in the shop. Apart from the three-storey mansion where he lived, one of the best residences in one of the best streets in London, with its windows permanently shuttered, no one would have regarded him as any other than homeless and destitute. Just a harmless eccentric, until the morning when he was found dead in his front garden. ‘

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, June 18
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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