The Magazine for Crime & Mystery



Val McDermid Interview

Nevada Barr on writing HUNTING SEASON plus an excerpt

Paul Doherty's short story THE KYRIE MAN

Stark Contrasts Michael Carlson examines the pulp fiction of Richard Stark

Have you got what it takes to be a Writer? by Fiona Shoop

It Could Only Happen in Hollywood

Chill Factor

Stuart Pawsons

Allison & Busby £17.99

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Reviewed by Keith Miles

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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 extremely good.

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