Tag Archives: Pete Brassett

‘Perdition,’ by Pete Brassett

Perdition

I was happy to find a new release in Pete Brassett’s DI Munro series. I found Perdition amusing and entertaining, as its predecessors have been.

Detective Inspector Munro, a rural Scottish policeman, is slightly hampered this time out by the fact that his long-impending retirement has finally come to pass. However, he finds retirement boring in the extreme, and soon begins meddling – unofficially – in a current investigation by his team. An investment bank employee is found dead in his car, killed by a powerful painkiller. Eventually they learn that the man was involved in loan sharking, but not before another man is found dead from the same cause, and one more nearly beaten to death.

Also, someone kills a goat with a crossbow.

The whole thing is fairly complex, with intertwining and backtracking trails and plenty of red herrings. Throughout the investigation DI Munro, as unobtrusively as possible, attempts to guide his successor, “Charlie” West, a female detective he’s been mentoring for some years now. Munro is a charming character, self-possessed, opinionated, and mildly curmudgeonly.

Lots of fun. There’s a minimum of violence and bad language. Some opinions were expressed that I don’t agree with, but I really have no serious cautions to deliver about Perdition.

‘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.

‘Terminus,’ by Pete Brassett

Terminus

Pete Brassett’s Inspector Munro series of police procedurals, set in Scotland, are in some ways hard to tell apart from other similar series I’ve been following, set in other parts of the British Isles. But this series manages to distinguish itself in some ways from the others. That’s partly because Munro is just a bit less curmudgeonly than other aging fictional detectives (he shows genuine concern for his colleagues, and often picks up the check in pubs), and partly because his (almost obligatory) female sidekick is an alcoholic who could crash her career at any moment.

At the beginning of Terminus, we find DI Munro in the hospital (or “in hospital,” as they say over there), after being hit while walking by a hit-and-run driver. He refuses, of course, to obey doctor’s orders, and escapes without being formally released. All indications are that the hit-and-run was intentional, related to a drug case Munro worked on earlier. The drug kingpin (a Norwegian!) has disappeared and is thought dead. But is he?

Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated matter, the team learns that a shady lawyer has been falsifying the wills of elderly people, to his own profit. Before they finish kicking over rocks, some very surprising beasties will come scuttling into the light. And the whole thing culminates in a shocking (if slightly improbable) confrontation.

Good fun, and I didn’t notice any unacceptable language. Recommended.

‘The Girl from Kilkenny,’ by Pete Brassett

The Girl from Kilkenny

Good writing. Disturbing story. That’s Pete Brassett’s The Girl from Kilkenny.

It’s not a mystery. It’s one of those stories where you watch a metaphorical train wreck going on, waiting for the moment when somebody will identify the problem and stop it.

Nancy McBride showed up at the Irish farm a few years ago. She was small and beautiful, and the young farmer, who lived with his widowed father, fell in love with her and married her. Granted, her moods tended to change violently from time to time, and she could be cruel with her words. But she showed no desire to leave the lonely farm, and her husband adored her and built his life around her.

When news comes that men have been mysteriously murdered in nearby towns, it never crosses his mind that his wife might be responsible. But there are a lot of things he doesn’t know about…

The Girl from Kilkenny is a neatly plotted tragedy, told in elegant prose.

It’s not a book to cheer you up.

Recommended for those who like this sort of thing.

‘Prayer for the Dying,’ by Steve Brassett

Prayer for the Dying

This novel by Pete Brassett is quite short, almost a novella. But it was an intriguing story, one I enjoyed. And the price was right.

At the beginning of Prayer for the Dying, small-town Irish police detectives Maguire and O’Brien are called to view the body of a dead priest, lying in an onion patch on the grounds of a school for orphan boys. The late priest was once headmaster of the school, but had retired, and was suffering dementia.

Various threads of narrative provide the back story, in bits and pieces and out of sequence. In his time, the dead priest was a terrifying figure, abusive and sadistic. A former staff member tells how he resigned because he couldn’t live with the cruelty anymore. And we are told of another former instructor, a gentle Spaniard who is now catatonic in a mental hospital – but who still finds a way to provide an important clue.

The story was heartbreaking, as any account of child abuse must always be. And there were spiritual elements that were slightly unsettling. But I appreciated the fact that the priests were not stereotyped – most of them were good men. And the ending had resonance.

Cautions for language – Irish cursing which uses somewhat unfamiliar words and so seems less offensive. Also for disturbing subject material. Recommended.

‘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.