GRIEF ENCOUNTERS
Stuart Pawson

 


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Allison & Busby, this edition published Nov 2007
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Detective Inspector Charlie Priest is sitting in the monthly superintendent’s briefing, doodling idly on his notepad, when Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Swainby, one of the ugliest men ever to don a uniform, announces he is leaving the force. He adds that certain allegations are going to be made about him and asks that he be given the benefit of the doubt.

Shortly after that a local member of parliament is photographed in a compromising position in the back of his car. He too chooses to bow out quietly, only he finds a much more permanent method.

A respectable headmistress of a local private girls’ school is picked up on a drink driving charge. She claims to have been the victim of a cruel trick at the hands of a man she met at a speed dating night. There is no reason why Charlie should believe her, but he does. Three prominent members of the community have had their previously unblemished careers damaged or destroyed by scandal. Perhaps there is a connection.

These events fade into the background when a photograph of an unidentified murder victim is circulated, asking the various stations if anyone can identify the woman. She was found beaten to death with no identification on her. The only clue is a rather distinctive tattoo on her buttock saying “property of the pope”. Charlie recognises the victim from his days as an art student. She was one of the regular models who posed for his life class.

Reading GRIEF ENCOUNTERS is like slipping into a pair of your favourite comfy slippers. It may not set the world on fire for being fashionable or chic but you know you are going to enjoy the experience. Stuart Pawson steers away from the dysfunctional stereotypes that abound in crime fiction these days. It is near impossible not to like the amiable Charlie Priest and his team at Heckley nick. These are ordinary people who come to work each day and share jokes, socialise and lead quiet unremarkable lives; just like the majority of us. And perhaps that is the clue to the popularity of Pawson’s Charlie Priest series. The men and women of Heckley could so easily be you and me.

GRIEF ENCOUNTERS is the twelfth in the Charlie Priest series and may there be many more.

March 2008 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem

 

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