‘Death of a Temptress,’ by P. F. Ford

Death of a Temptress

An hour or so later, they were pretty sure they were both on the same page. In fact, they were in complete agreement. They completely agreed they had no idea what it was they were investigating.

Sometimes a book benefits from contrast with what you last read. After my brief, grim sojourn among Norwegian mystery writers, this story came like a break in the clouds. In spite of some flaws.

The hero of Death of a Temptress (first in a series of police procedurals by P.F. Ford) is Dave Slater, a detective sergeant in Tinton, a small, fictional Hampshire (England) town. Dave has been demoted, having been made the scapegoat for another officer’s mistakes. When his superior assigns him to a missing person case, he’s bitter at first. He considers it a waste of his time. He isn’t any happier when he’s teamed with DS Norman Norman (his actual name), a fat detective with a reputation for laziness. Dave is soon disabused of this prejudice. DS Norman turns out to be a smart and wise cop, who preaches positive thinking to him to with some success.

When Ruth Thornhill disappeared in London six months before, the Metropolitan police quickly (like Dave) dismissed her as a runaway. But her sister, who has some political connections, has managed to get the investigation moved to the Tinton force, who are not so busy. She describes Ruth as a mousy, shy girl. However, as Dave and Norman investigate, they learn that she was an entirely different person in London. She was sexy and glamorous, and lived in an exclusive apartment she shouldn’t have been able to afford. It becomes apparent that there’s been a cover-up here – Ruth (who called herself Ruby in London) was playing dangerous games with very powerful people. These people play hardball, and do not take kindly to small town cops poking into their business.

What I liked most about Death of a Temptress, after reading Scandinavian noir, was the relative sunniness of the whole thing. Although some awful things happen, the overall ambience is cheerful. Author Ford seems to be a kind of apostle of Positive Thinking, and he happily shares his philosophy through DS Norman.

There were aspects I didn’t care for. Author Ford is still learning his trade, and he sometimes overwrites. He tends to bear down too heavily on his jokes. There’s an evangelical Christian in the book, and he talks pretty much the way someone who’s never met an evangelical Christian would imagine we talk.

But all in all, Death of a Temptress was a lot of fun, puzzling and fast-moving. I immediately downloaded the sequel. I expect you’ll have a good time with it too. Recommended, with cautions for language, violence, and mature themes.

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