The “local color” mystery seems to be an established literary tradition by now. David Blake kicks off this particular new series with Broadland, the first in a series featuring Detective Inspector John Tanner of the Norfolk police in England.
Tanner is newly arrived from London. Burned out after the murder of his daughter and his subsequent divorce, he hopes the quieter atmosphere of the “Norfolk Broads” country will bring him some peace. He moves onto a friend’s sailing yacht and reports for work.
His hopes for peace are frustrated, however, by the discovery of a young woman’s body, mutilated in an encounter with a boat’s motor. Everyone assumes she merely fell into the canal and drowned, but Tanner is unsatisfied with that explanation. On top of that, another detective, with less experience but more local knowledge, is put in charge of the investigation.
This will prove to be a tragic decision.
When another woman is found drowned and mutilated, Tanner gets his own case. Partnered with a young female detective (with whom he soon begins a not-entirely-appropriate relationship), he follows the clues to a shocking and nearly disastrous final showdown in an abandoned windmill.
The Norfolk Broads series (I’ll review the next two in the next couple days) is a competent, entertaining police procedural series. It’s not a standout at this point – the characters are a little shallow, I’d say, and Tanner has a suspicious habit of being right all the time – but I enjoyed the book.
One interesting point – which I’m not sure how to interpret – is that each book is prefaced by a Bible passage – not just a single verse, but a paragraph or so. The books are not particularly “religious” in the Christian publishing sense, but the verses are there. Make of them what you will.
Recommended, with the usual cautions.