McCrery, Nigel - 'Scream'
SCREAM is the third in the series of police procedurals by Nigel McCrery, crime novelist, former police officer and screenwriter for the long-running Silent Witness pathologist based TV series. The hero, the crotchety Chief Inspector Lapslie, is participating in an international police course on counter-terrorism in Pakistan at the opening of the novel. When he finds someone has anonymously sent him a very disturbing e-mail: a sound file which appears to be a woman's death throes, he flies back home to investigate. His first step back home is to liaise with the computer experts to obtain information about the e-mail to help trace the sender and probable victim.
Meanwhile Lapslie's sergeant, Emma Bradbury is in charge of a murder investigation on Canvey Island; a woman's body has been found. The body displays signs of vicious torture prior to the murder. Identification of the victim doesn't seem to lead the team much further, so Emma and Lapslie start examining previous unsolved cases to see whether there might be a serial killer at work, and whether trace evidence of genetically engineered crops found at the scene might be a clue.
Relations between Emma and Lapslie are somewhat strained during this novel; Emma is in a relationship with police informer and local villain Dom McGinley, much to Lapslie's distaste. The characters of Lapslie and Emma are well developed, and progress throughout the series. Lapslie's personal and professional life have markedly improved since the beginning of the series - the synaesthesia which disabled him so much at the start of this series (Lapslie experiences scents and odours of a sometimes overwhelming nature in response to sounds and voices) is being kept at bay by medication and psychotherapy. Lapslie can now carry out his professional duties fully and even enjoy concerts and meals out with a new girlfriend, a marked improvement to the restrictions on his life and work he suffered in the first book in this series.
SCREAM has more than a pinch of the originality of the early Patricia Cornwell books, with a particularly ingenious motivation behind the murders. Lapslie's neurological condition, synaesthesia, has surprising relevance to the resolution of the novel. The forensic detail can be somewhat gruelling at times though, as the author is particularly adept, given his screen-writing background, in dishing out vivid pictures of crime scenes and the post-mortems. Overall SCREAM is a pacy, entertaining read, with an intriguing plot and sympathetic main characters, if not for the faint-hearted.
Read another review of SCREAM.
Laura Root, England