Tag Archives: David Blake

‘Moorings,’ by David Blake

When a decorated World War II hero is found drowned in his bath – not by accident, according to the coroner – Detective Inspector John Tanner and his partner (both personal and professional) Jenny Evans are pulled from missing persons duty to look into it. There are two surviving sons, and a pair of adult twin grandchildren. None of them seems to need money enough to kill the old man for the value of the decaying boatyard he owns. That’s the premise of David Blake’s novel Moorings, third in his Norfolk Broads police procedural series.

People kill for motives other than money, however. The suspect pool gradually shrinks as one by one the heirs are murdered, and in the end Tanner and Jenny will face the irrational fury of someone who has suffered an old, unpunished crime.

Moorings was an enjoyable, fast-paced mystery with appealing characters. I thought the plot had some weaknesses – there are a whole lot of coincidences, and the police procedures seemed kind of loosely observed to me (though perhaps their rules of evidence are different from the American). Also, Tanner and Jenny witness a particularly harrowing death that seems (to me) to affect them rather less than it should.

As in all the books, there’s a Bible passage at the beginning. And we are told that Tanner is weakening in his agnosticism. Which is always nice.

Recommended, for entertainment purposes. Mild cautions for the usual stuff.

‘St. Benet’s,’ by David Blake

Book 2 in David Blake’s Norfolk Broads police procedural series is St. Benet’s. As you might guess, this novel takes its name from a church, and the issue of religion gets touched on.

Detective John Tanner is now cohabiting, at least much of the time, with his partner, attractive DC Jenny Evans. This is against regulations, but nobody’s called them on it yet.

Jenny in particular is appalled when they’re called to the ruined abbey adjoining the Catholic church to which she (technically) belongs, though her practice has lapsed. A man has been found on the site of the old altar, his head nearly severed and a knife in his hand. It looks like suicide, but if so it’s an extreme one, and John isn’t certain about it. The dead man was the former priest of the parish. Years ago he was accused of the rape and murder of a teenaged girl. He was acquitted, but excommunicated. After that he became the head of his own Satanic cult, and wrote a bestselling book. In that book, he suggested that he might be able to kill himself and rise from the dead, through diabolical power.

And then his tomb is struck by lightning, and another young girl is murdered on the site. And the priest’s corpse disappears.

Tanner’s and Jenny’s working relationship is strained when he makes some disparaging remarks about religion, which offend her. But they have to keep their eyes on the puzzle, because more murders are coming, and they are very cruel murders. Of course they can’t have been committed by the dead priest… can they?

St. Benet’s was a fairly engaging mystery in which religious questions were handled more or less even-handedly (though some very poor theology gets expressed, but that may just be the individual characters’ voices). My biggest problem with the book was that I figured out the murderer fairly early on.

Still, it was entertaining.

‘Broadland,’ by David Blake

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.