There’s a lot of good to be said about Christ Collett’s new stand-alone mystery, The Truth About Murder. But I also found it somewhat aggravating.
First of all, full marks for originality in giving us a new kind of investigative hero – Stefan Greaves is a lawyer in the (fictional, I presume) middle English town of Charnford. From the beginning, it’s clear that Stefan suffers from some kind of disability, but author Collett (annoyingly, in my view) puts off naming it until nearly half-way through the book. I’ll risk spoiling it by telling you that he has cerebral palsy. To reduce associated muscle tension, he smokes pot regularly. Because social interactions are difficult (he has trouble being understood when he talks) he sees an “escort” regularly.
Stefan gets a visit from a local nurse, who is concerned about mortality rates in the neonatal ward where she works. Not long afterward she disappears, and when her body is found in the river, the verdict is suicide – though her daughter insists she was a Catholic and would never do that.
Investigating the disappearance and death is Mick Fraser, a local cop. Mick is concerned about his partner, whose time has been monopolized by their commander lately. He’s been secretive, and Mick begins to suspect him of corruption. In fact, it’s far worse than that…
As the plot thickens (rather slowly I thought, and with too much reliance on coincidence) Stefan and Mick are drawn together to uncover a sinister and heinous plot that threatens the whole country.
I never fell in love with The Truth About Murder, or with Stefan Greaves as a character. (He shares, with many fictional detectives, a gift for having attractive women throw themselves at him constantly, in spite of his disability. I complain of this trope often in my reviews, and if you think that means I’m jealous… well, I am.)
However, the book’s themes pleased me greatly. Without spoiling it for the reader, I’ll just say that it involved controversial issues of medical ethics. Author Collett seems to be unaware of (or is avoiding) the fact that the evil in view here is more associated with the Left than the Right in our time. But that may be a strategic choice intended not to alienate readers. I don’t know Collett’s politics, but if he’s conservative I salute his strategy, and if he’s liberal I salute his moral sense.
I can’t give The Truth About Murder my highest recommendation, but it’s worth reading. There’s a suggestion that this might be the start of a new series. I’m not wholly enthusiastic about that prospect.