‘Murder in the Mind,’ by Bruce Beckham

Murder in the Mind

‘Do you catch by logic, Daniel – or is it gut feel?’

Skelgill turns to her, blinking.

‘You mean fish?’

‘Fish – or criminals. Is there a difference?’

Now Skelgill is forced to contemplate the distinction.

‘After I’ve caught a fish – when I’m thinking about it – maybe driving home, walking the dog, whatever – I can explain how I did it.’ He pulls of his Tilley hat and absently combs back his hair with the fingers of one hand. ‘I can’t honestly say I always see it at the time.’

I think I have a codependent relationship with Bruce Beckham’s Inspector Skelgill mysteries, set in England’s Cumbria county. The man is annoying by design, and he does annoy me. He’s obsessive, exploitative of his underlings, and insensitive to others generally. And yet I keep coming back to the books.

In this outing, Murder in the Mind, Skelgill is more irritating than usual (even after appearing to make progress in the previous book). He and the long-suffering Sergeant Leyton drive out to a maximum-security hospital for the criminally insane. The complaint is – apparently – a trivial one. Some supplies have gone missing. Yet before long two patients are dead, and later two more escape, one with a hostage.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Jones (a female officer with whom Skelgill almost has a relationship) is off to Manchester to do an undercover job with Inspector Smart, Skelgill’s hated rival, both personally and professionally. And Skelgill, as a prize in a raffle, takes a doctor on a fishing trip. That doctor turns out to be an attractive female psychologist who works at the mental hospital. He also has a liaison with the hospital’s female director (apparently women find Alpha, insensitive males incredibly attractive. I need to work on that).

I frankly found the plot kind of confusing, and I didn’t like Skelgill at all this time around as he muddled his way to a solution and a rescue.

But I’m sure I’ll stay with the books, heaven help me.

Cautions for adult themes. No sex scenes (though plenty goes on offstage), and as always profanities are cleverly circumloquted).

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