For rookie detective constable Fiona Griffiths, her first major investigation promises to be a tough initiation into Cardiff’s dark underbelly. A young woman and her six-year-old daughter have been found brutally murdered in a squalid flat, the single clue a platinum credit card belonging to a millionaire businessman who died in a plane crash six months before. For her fellow cops, it’s just another case of a low-rent prostitute meeting the wrong kind of client and coming to a nasty end, but Fiona is convinced that the tragic lives and cruel deaths of this mother and daughter are part of a deeper, darker mystery.
Fiona, however, has secrets of her own. She is still recovering from a crushing psychological breakdown, and the feelings which haunt her are constantly threatening to undermine the mask of normality she has learned to wear. As she begins to piece together a bizarre and terrifying conspiracy, Fiona finds that what makes her vulnerable also gives her a unique insight into the secrets of the dead, and in solving the murders of Janet and April Mancini she can begin to start solving the riddles of her own past.
I was fortunate when growing up that – living in Wales – my parents decided to send me to a Welsh language school and Welsh is one of the languages I still read and speak to this day. School also served as the only time I’ve ever read a book based in Wales – North or South, East or West – and even then not always in a modern fictional setting; mostly about Princes, ancient history and dogs (you had to be there!). With this in mind I was incredibly excited when Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham arrived this week and although I hadn’t planned to read it so soon, it sat on the shelf begging me to read about Cardiff, Newport and various locations in and around Wales.
Talking to the Dead is a fast read, bloody fast, thanks mainly to a pacy narrative that is told completely through the eyes of Detective Constable Fiona “Fi” Griffiths. The narrative is punchy, includes short edgy sentences, and just allows you to move from one page to another effortlessly.
As I’ve already alluded DC Griffiths leads the book with her POV narrative, she commands the reader to follow her daily routines, her investigations and her run-ins with her superiors. Griffiths is without question a loose cannon – a maverick – and as we delve deeper into her life it becomes clear she’s psychotic, unhinged and perhaps a little unbalanced. The book, despite a very interesting storyline of drugs, working girls and Cardiff’s underbelly – yes apparently it has one! – is for me completely character driven by the detective. Everything hinges centres around Fiona and what happens to her throughout the various investigations and daily routines – mostly of her own choosing.
At times following Griffiths is a frustrating experience – and that’s not by any means a negative – it’s just that for me the way this book is written you have an affinity with the protagonist and become part of her psyche. She does things as a reader you’d never do, never contemplate, but then we aren’t going through what she’s going through or nor do we have her past history to hand. It’s difficult to put into words but you do feel – once you reach the end of the book – that you’ve been on a rollercoaster of a journey full of emotions.
Griffiths is self-centred and the world revolves around her, period. She says things that make no sense initially however slowly but surely they unravel and an explanation ensues. In fact, thinking about it, as I write this summation Talking to the Dead is in a rather dark place, it takes the reader to a dark and uncertain place. It did make me laugh on a few occasions – especially the glowing description of Newport – but for the whole I couldn’t escape Fiona’s mind. I won’t say anymore on our protagonist, I’ll let you delve a lot deeper yourselves because believe me there’s a lot to discover but it’s certainly worth the effort.
The storyline itself is well developed and although there were a few things I didn’t quite see happening they made sense when you begin to understand the main characters. Police procedural is good and I thoroughly enjoyed the power struggles between section heads and even though they had one goal in common you never quite felt that!
If you’re looking for a punchy narrative based in good old Wales where Newport isn’t Newport Rhode Island – for once – and seeking a multi layered protagonist in DC Fiona Griffiths then this is the book for you. I for one can’t wait to see what Bingham comes up with next for Griffiths!
- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Orion; Hardback edition (21 Jun 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1409140865
- ISBN-13: 978-1409140863
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