There are so many good things in this
latest Charlie Priest mystery that it seems churlish to point
out that the title has little relevance to the story and that
the cover design is even more misleading. When salesman Tony
Silkstone discovers that his wife is having an affair, he
wants his revenge. What the police find at the house is a dead
woman, apparently strangled during a bizarre sex ritual, and
her lover, stabbed through the heart with a turkey carver.
Silkstone confesses to the murder of the lover, pleading
severe provocation. Detective Inspector Charlie Priest is not
convinced that he's hearing the whole truth.
A long and labyrithine investigation
begins, during which Priest becomes the target for a hit man
called Kevin Chilcott - nicknamed The Chiller - pursues
various lines of inquiry and (almost) has a steamy affair with
a female colleague. In spite of his irritating habit of
telling us in detail about every meal that he eats, Charlie
Priest is an engaging character, tough, tenacious, witty and
irreverent. Moulded by the bleak Yorkshire landscape around
him, he looks and sounds like a real cop.
The problem is that he digresses so
much that the narrative thread is sometimes lost. And far too
much of the novel takes place offstage. We are told about
events instead of being shown them. The Chiller is supposed to
be a ruthless murderer who has already killed one policeman
but we never actually get to know him in order to judge for
ourselves. Since he remains pnly a vague presence, there is no
real sense of menace. The expected dramatic confrontation
with Priest never occurs.
Notwithstanding these defects, Chill
Factor has many virtues. Stuart Pawson knows his patch and
his police lore. There's some excellent badinage at the
station and its internal politics are sketched in very well.
Characters are, for the most part, strongly defined and there
are plenty of twists in the tale. Readers are also given
valuable advice on how to dispose of a condom down the toilet
- not as easy as you may think. The atmosphere is authentic
throughout. A curate's egg, then, but the good parts are