Today’s book review of a crime novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
Race to Death by Leigh Russell
Synopsis: When a man plummets to his death from a balcony at York races, his wife and brother become suspects in a murder enquiry. Meanwhile Richard is being stalked by a killer issuing death threats. Richard is reluctant to go to the police, for fear his own dark secret will be exposed. Newly promoted Detective Inspector Ian Peterson is investigating the death at the races when a woman’s body is discovered. Shortly after that, Richard is killed. With three murders and no suspect, the investigation seems to be going backwards. Ian is determined to discover who is responsible. Afraid the detective is on his track, the killer abducts Ian’s wife. Ian must solve the case to find her, before she becomes the next victim of a serial killer.
Review (of eBook using the text-to-speech function)
This is the second in the DI Ian Peterson series and I’d not read the first one so appreciated the very useful synopsis at the start (followed, however, by eleven Kindle pages of critical acclaim which I’d have rather have had at the back). There was then a dedication and acknowledgements and an equally-useful glossary of acronyms including a new one to me, VIIDO (Visual Images Identifications and Detections Office).
The third-person narrated novel starts with tipsy Adrian, a non-native of York, who’s looking for racing tips while envious of his successful brother Charles. Adrian receives a tip but only the best viewing point, not a horse to back. Unaccompanied by his wife (too-high heels), he goes up to the Shirley Heights Bar but this proves to be his undoing as he’s murdered.
Chapter 2 then switches to Vivien’s point of view and her discovering the death of her husband.
In comes DI Ian Peterson – recently transferred from Kent to Yorkshire – as he first interviews Charles (who had accompanied Adrian and Vivien) then the doctor sent to analyse the situation.
With a suspect in custody, Ian’s convinced he’s not guilty as the man, Harry, protests his innocence. Ian goes in search of a steward who can help the case but this again turns out to be the wrong person.
We then meet, albeit briefly for now, Richard, a former playboy turned fiancé-to-be, who receives a phone call and death threat from someone unknown to him.
The next few chapters switch between Richard and Ian, and then Vivien. Charles seems to me too calm but he’s having to do so for her but then it’s revealed that he’s too smooth for a reason.
Ian’s wife, mentioned earlier, goes job hunting before the next chapter introduces us to Jocelyn, late for work, who’s wondering whether moving in with James is a good idea (as do I having characters with the same first initial). By the end of the short chapter, he redeems himself as he consoles her when she tells him of a rough lunch break. Things deteriorate and a later chapter proves an ending for both of them, one of the best-written scenes so far.
There appears to be no connection between the two tragedies until Ian interviews James who mentions having been at the racecourse. There’s another murder and when Ian interviews another partner, the connection between the three deceased becomes apparent. Ian’s challenge to find the killer is heightened when his wife Bev is kidnapped.
The pace picked up further in the last third of the novel. I’d not guessed who the murderer was and, while the character was featured earlier in the novel, the connection between the victims and why she/he had to kill all three was a surprise. I don’t recall there having been any clues throughout the book but that would be something to look out for during a second read.
For my liking – I can’t help it, I’m a freelance editor – there were far too many adverbs (e.g. “‘Damn him,’ Ted muttered angrily”, “she said dully” – and dully is repeated a couple of paragraphs later, “Ian said gently”, “her companion repeated forcefully”, “she snapped briskly”, “he muttered crossly”, and later “‘I can’t help it,’ she muttered crossly” etc. – most of those in the same chapter and most we don’t need because what they say tells us how they’re saying it / feeling), clichés (“to get on the wrong foot”, “turned on her heel”, “red-faced with anger”, the latter was then repeated on the following page) and surplus words (nodding of heads, when nodding would do).
There were occasional confusing passages e.g. the beginning of chapter seven where Ian appears to go to work then is standing at his bedroom door then driving without a section break – a simple ‘he had looked back’ would have helped – and times when during a discussion between two male characters, it wasn’t clear which was which.
I’d not recommend having Barry and a Harry in the same book, and certainly not in the same chapters, and wasn’t convinced that there would be two Barry Gordons working at the same place at the same time. I wouldn’t have thought it was that common a name and Wikipedia only lists one.
For most readers (I’m often a harsh critic), that’s what they’re after so it’s not surprising that her books receive an average 4/5 and I follow suit.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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