Tag Archives: Inspector Munro

‘Talion,’ by Pete Brassett

Talion

First of all, the blurb on the cover of Pete Brassett’s Talion ought to qualify as libel. It calls the book “A Scandinavian noir mystery set in Scotland.” This is a lie, thank God. Scandinavian noir novels are dark, dank, and suicidal, leaving the reader wondering whether life in a Socialist paradise is worth the effort of cashing the welfare checks. Pete Brassett’s Inspector Munro novels are bright and cheery (in spite of the murders). Munro is indefatigably optimistic, a role model for us all.

At the end of the last novel, Terminus (spoiler alert), it looked as if Munro was out of the picture for good. But in fact he’s just vacationing on the island of Islay. Detective Sergeant “Charlie” West manages to lure him back to their coastal Scottish community with an interesting murder mystery involving criminals Munro knows well from the past.

A young boy and his mother, on holiday at the seashore, had discovered a decomposing human body on the beach (the boy, a budding entomologist, was not in the least traumatized). It takes some time to identify the man, but it turns out to be a local drug dealer. He was part of a triumvirate of criminals in the past, and suspicion falls on his old partners in crime. Then another of the three is murdered. Who is killing these men and why? And is it possible the single mother who found the body is actually involved herself?

Like all the Inspector Munro books, Talion is a lot of fun. Munro is a wonderful character – just irascible enough to be amusing without becoming a bore. Sergeant West, who was something of a personal wreck when she first appeared, has grown and gained poise and confidence in her job. I had a great time with Talion, and recommend it wholeheartedly. Cautions for mature themes.

‘Avarice,’ by Pete Brassett

Avarice

In the sequel to She, which I reviewed last night, Pete Brassett’s Scottish Detective Inspector Munro is back home in Scotland, having retired from London policing. When a woman’s body is found in a glenn, under suspicious circumstances, the local inspector persuades his superiors to bring in Munro, rather than turning the case over to CID. The hope is that Munro can unravel the case before they have to turn it over to the “big boys.” A little authorly plot manipulation gets Detective Sergeant Charlie West, Munro’s sidekick in the last book, into the immediate vicinity and available to help out. And so Avarice gets its momentum up.

With the help of the local force they begin to examine the woman’s past (she was a German immigrant, and previously married), uncovering various motives (mainly financial) why certain people would want her dead. The real culprit(s), however, are a surprise.

This is a fairly cozy police procedural, with lots of quiet interviews and red herrings and tea getting drunk. Inspector Munro is amusingly curmudgeonly (he even takes a moment to criticize political correctness, which pleased me). No explicit sex or violence, but some rough language.

Recommended if this sort of thing is your cuppa tea. I liked it.

‘She,’ by Pete Brassett

She

‘You’re…’

‘I kid you not. What’s the time?’

‘Five. Give or take.’

‘That makes it 1am in Perth,’ said Munro. ‘Let’s give her a wee call.’

‘At this hour?’ said West. ‘She’ll be in bed, surely?’

‘Nae bother. She’ll have to get up to answer the phone anyway.’

The Amazon summary describes She by Pete Brassett as a “Scandinavian style suspense thriller.” I’m not sure I know exactly what that means. I was reminded more of Inspector Morse. The police procedural featuring the crusty, insensitive senior officer and the callow, long-suffering younger officer seems to be in vogue these days, and for good reason. It’s a formula that works. The Inspector Skelgill mysteries I’ve been reviewing are examples of the same sort ot thing. In fact, Inspector Munro, hero of this book and its sequels, bears a pretty close resemblance to Skelgill, except that he’s a few notches less abusive.

Inspector Munro is from Scotland, but works in London, where he fled after the death of his beloved wife. He’s paired with Sergeant Charlotte (Charlie) West, an attractive young woman with a drinking problem. What seems like a routine missing person case turns out to be part of a string of bizarre murders and dismemberments. In a parallel narrative we learn about their suspect, an innocent-looking young woman who conceals bizarre compulsions.

The picture of the killer is compelling, in a flashing-lights-and-ambulances-by-the-side-of-the-road sort of way, but the main interest of the story (for me) was watching Munro work with Sergeant West. A smart and talented officer, she walks the razor edge of career disaster with her alcohol-caused mistakes and late appearances. Munro takes a sergeant-major approach with her, cutting her no slack, and gradually she responds positively to the challenge.

The plot wraps up in an extremely neat way. In fact it’s so neat that author Brassett throws in an epilogue to throw everything we think we’ve learned into question.

I’m not sure I’ve forgiven him for that trick. But I have read two more books in the series, so I must not be too angry.

Cautions for language, gore, and adult themes.