Tag Archives: DCI Warren Jones

‘The Common Enemy,’ by Paul Gitsham

I’ve been going through Paul Gitsham’s DCI Warren Jones series, and frankly it’s getting harder to carry on. The books have always been a little dreary, but The Common Enemy is positively depressive.

In the fictional town of Middlesbury where Jones is Chief Inspector, a “super-mosque” is scheduled to be built. There has been considerable push-back from white supremacist groups. On a night when a far-right party had scheduled a demonstration, police pulled protection away from an existing mosque to keep the peace at the parade. Someone then set fire to the mosque, and two people were left injured, close to death. On top of that, one of the leaders of the racist party leading the march was found stabbed to death in an alley.

Inspector Jones and his team (and superiors) have to walk on eggshells as they try to untangle a snakes’ nest of hatred, fear, prejudice, and paranoia. If they can’t find who set the fire, minorities will accuse them of covering up for bigots. If they can’t solve the murder, far-right extremists will make the man a martyr.

It all leads to a shocking climax.

The book was well-written, but it had few rewards for me. I felt I’d fought my way through a lot of tension and unpleasantness, only to get a punch in the gut at the end.

On top of that, although author Gitsham did a pretty good job treating all his characters – including the slimy racists – as human beings with individual stories, and indeed in spreading some of the guilt around, I noticed that one group came off as utterly innocent and entirely made up of victims. That was the Muslims. You can’t blame the author, I suppose. You’re pretty much not allowed to allow for any sin within Islam, in modern publishing.

But I didn’t find the book very rewarding.

‘Silent as the Grave,’ by Paul Gitsham

As I’ve been working my way through Paul Gitsham’s DCI Warren Jones series, I’ve commented that Inspector Jones distinguishes himself from other series detectives in (seemingly) having no particular skeletons in his closet. No old traumas, or addictions, or PTSD, which seem to be obligatory for the genre.

How wrong I was. Plenty of skeletons are revealed in Silent As the Grave, in which all Jones’ chickens seem to come home to roost at once.

An elderly man is found stabbed to death in a park. The crime seems unremarkable, except for the unusual dearth of clues, or a possible motive. The man had been a simple gardener, without known enemies.

Then Jones is approached by a man he does not know, but knows about. The man was his own predecessor in his present job – a cop gone bad, disgraced and facing trial. He says the gardener was murdered at the orders of a crime lord recently released from prison, now out for revenge. There will be more murders, he says. He’ll help Jones solve the case, in return for help in clearing himself.

Jones scoffs. The man is obviously trying to manipulate him, for his own benefit. Then the man plays his trump card – Jones’s father was innocent, he says, and he can help him prove it.

This is world-shattering. Jones’s father, we learn, was a policeman who committed suicide – Jones himself, a teenager at the time, found the body. His father was discovered to have been corrupt, and apparently killed himself out of shame.

Could that have been a mistake? Jones has spent most of his life hating his own father. Has he been doing him an injustice? Or is his informant just playing him cynically, for his own advantage?

Finding the answer will bring Jones himself, as well has his family, into mortal danger before a complex mystery is finally unraveled. The climax of the story is unexpected and shocking.

This one was somewhat more intense than I expected. The story still moves a little slowly, as with all the books in the series, but all in all it was pretty satisfying. Minimal cautions for language and mature subject matter.

‘No Smoke Without Fire,’ by Paul Gitsham

A sort of a cross between Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels and “Midsommer Murders.” That’s how I’d explain Paul Gitsham’s DCI Warren Jones novels.

In No Smoke Without Fire, young women start disappearing in the English town of Middlesbury. When their bodies are found, they have been raped and strangled. The crime scenes are remarkable for their lack of forensic evidence. This monster has studied police forensic procedures, and knows what to do. More young women will die until Jones and his team can get into his strange, twisted mind and put a stop to him.

I’m enjoying these books, but I have to admit I also find them slow for long stretches. I think that’s because author Gitsham does a good job describing the tedious, day to day routine of police work. He saves the fireworks (except for somewhat harrowing descriptions of the abductions) for the obligatory showdown at the end.

I thought this was a new series for me, but I find I reviewed one of the books some time back, before rediscovering it.

These are intelligent, enjoyable books, if occasionally slow. Christianity, again, is generally treated with respect. Only a few cautions for language.

‘The Last Straw,’ by Paul Gitsham

I was in a mood for a change of pace from intense crime thrillers, and thought I’d look for a good, old-fashioned police procedural. I found it in The Last Straw, Paul Gitsham’s first in a series starring Detective Chief Inspector Warren Jones of the (fictional) Middlesbury police force, in England.

Professor Alan Tunbridge of the (also fictional) University of Middle England’s biology department was a genius and, by all accounts, a pretty vile man. He abused his colleagues, exploited and sabotaged his student assistants, and pursued any pretty young woman who came his way.

Nevertheless, he didn’t deserve to have this throat cut. Which is what happened, in his office, on a day when the laboratory building was nearly empty.

A suspect is quickly identified. A figure on the building’s closed circuit TV is readily identifiable as a former student of Tunbridge’s, an Italian man with good reason to hate him. When bloodstained clothing is found on the man’s property, it follows naturally he must be arrested and charged.

But DCI Warren Jones, newly promoted and transferred in to Middlesbury, is a stickler for “dotting the Is and crossing the Ts,” as he repeatedly says. And he and his subordinates begin to have doubts about the evidence. Looking more closely, they begin to uncover a ruthless conspiracy, one which will not stint at committing further murders to keep its secrets —  and even cops are not safe.

To be honest, I found The Last Straw a little dull at first. I’ve grown accustomed to angst-ridden detectives, bedeviled by alcoholism, PTSD, bad marriages and ingrown guilt. DCI Jones is another kind of policeman altogether. He’s healthy, well organized, and generally cheerful. And when personal conflicts appear on his team, he handles them in a manner that’s an example to us all. I do worry about his marriage though – his wife is remarkably patient, but the pressure is heavy.

The book grew on me. It didn’t hurt that a couple of the characters identified as Christians and church-goers. I recommend The Last Straw for a more leisurely read than common in the genre, with only a mild caution for language.