Kelly, Jim - 'Death Watch'
Following on from his previous novel, the outstanding DEATH WORE WHITE, this new story again features DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine who were introduced in the latter book. Jim Kelly has written five previous novels before DEATH WORE WHITE, so is very experienced in the mystery genre.
Exactly 18 years separate the two deaths of Norma Jean Judd and her brother Bryan. His body is pulled from a hospital incinerator and it sets in motion a long investigation that is an excellent example of a police procedural at its best. The thoughtful and gradual investigation by DI Shaw's team of detectives and SOC officers unravels a complex and secret world of criminal activity. The investigation uncovers a hospital doctor who is moonlighting and using his surgical skills for a slick body parts scam, using street itinerants as unlikely and sometimes unwilling donors, and rich foreign patients as beneficiaries.
The surgeries are being carried out at a secret location and the process causes a lot of problems with the disposal of used body parts and sometimes of bodies with all the vital organs and eyes removed. Hence the hospital incinerator and access to it by subterfuge is very important. Unfortunately, when the body of Bryan Judd is discovered this puts the incinerator off limits as a crime scene and an alternative has to be produced.
As the detectives investigate all the various elements of their leads, we hear their back stories. We learn that Peter Shaw's father was a detective also and his last case was when he was partnered with George Valentine. The problems that they faced with their case meant such a loss of face that Peter's father was retired early and George was demoted from Inspector to Sergeant and transferred into the wilderness for many years. Now that he has returned to his old location and is partnered, somewhat unwillingly with his ex-partner's son he starts investigating the case that caused him so much trouble.
The detectives soldier on to the not unexpected conclusion in a very entertaining, an often amusing story. The theme of organized crime involved in the body parts business is not that unusual (I recall reviewing the last Peter James book on the same subject) but the very clever way the author has covered the theme and the interaction and humour between the detectives on the case is very wry. The detectives are all exhausted, following all the various leads and there is a lot of comradeship whilst sharing drinks at the end of the shift or during a hurried breakfast or when one calls at the house of the other one and finds he is still asleep.
I really enjoyed this thriller and I'm glad the author is going to keep writing more adventures of Shaw and Valentine as detective fiction needs more books of this high quality. I look forward to having the opportunity of reading more books by Jim Kelly.
Terry Halligan, England