Tickler, Peter - 'Blood on the Cowley Road'
This is very much a local book - set not just in Oxford, but in a small area of Oxford and one that I'm quite familiar with. This is not the Oxford we may have encountered with Inspector Morse, but a very different city - Town not Gown. It revolves around the Cowley Police Station and a few streets surrounding it. There is no denying the author's knowledge of Oxford, though he could perhaps have given a bit more description for those readers who are less familiar with the area.
Plot-wise the book starts with the death of a woman who jumped, or possibly was pushed, from the top of a multi-storey car park. The woman was bi-polar and attended a day centre and when a worker there is killed, the police have two deaths to investigate. It doesn't take long before the body count begins to mount up.
The police team consist of newly-promoted DI Susan Holden, DS Fox and DC Wilson. I did quite like Holden, but I was at least halfway through the book before I could distinguish between Fox and Wilson despite one being an experienced officer and the other a relative rookie, so the characterisation could have been better.
The plotting was fairly standard stuff, solidly reasoned if not entirely convincing as to motive. My main problem is that one of the crimes is left unresolved at the end. Now I'm all for breaking the mould in crime fiction, for bending the “rules” of the genre, but to be able to carry it off you need to be a very strong writer and I don't feel that this worked here. The least a writer can do at the end of a fairly standard crime novel is solve the crime, or allow the detective to do it anyway. This just left me feeling cheated.
So, overall it was a competent novel, a little cliched in places, trying a bit too hard in others. A little more work on the characterisation, and a closer look at some of the writing would have made this a better novel, but all in all not too bad for a first attempt. It provides a fairly decent picture of Oxford and bonus points for all the many mentions of the mighty Oxford United - this may after all be the only time ever that Paul Wanless gets a name check outside the sports pages.
Pat Austin, England
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