The formula for the British police procedural seems to be fairly well established. You have your stalwart Inspector, both wise and experienced (and always male for me, because I don’t read the other kind). You have his stalwart, younger partner – usually, but not always, male – who seems dumb but only in comparison to his boss. Underneath these, a scattering of team members of both genders – the females usually more gorgeous than is probable, but correspondingly smart, and one or two members of racial minorities. You pretty much need to resort to personal quirks to distinguish one series from another.
In the Harrogate Mystery series, set in English Yorkshire, the main character is Detective Chief Inspector Cyril Bennett. He distinguishes himself by being a good dresser, and somewhat OCD about organization. At least in this book, he’s unusual in suffering from Bell’s Palsy, which temporarily paralyzes half his face, leaving one eye constantly staring.
But that doesn’t keep him from working in Only the Dead. On the grounds of a teacher training college, workmen discover the buried bodies of two infants. At the same time, a vigilante is walking the streets of the city, using mustard gas recovered from unexploded World War I shells to attack and incapacitate (not kill) certain disgraced members of the elderly care industry. Investigation will lead to an insidious human trafficking operation.
I found Only the Dead a little hard to get into at first – the descriptions seemed kind of amorphous. But that got better. After that, the story moved right along and kept my attention.
My problem with the book stems from my personal beliefs and reactions. This book is not an apologia for the “gay” movement – the gay characters in the book are fairly unpleasant people. But we spend a fair amount of time with them, and the scenes get kind of… intimate. I find that icky.
So all in all, my verdict is “neutral.” Not a bad book; the writing was good. There seemed to be a strong moral sense undergirding all – whether it’s consistent with my own sense it’s too early to say. But the “ick” factor may keep me from going back.