Mustard gas, young children’s bodies buried years ago, a Doctor and his charming housekeeper – DCI Bennett faces a complex case in this exciting thriller!
DCI Cyril Bennett Harrogate Crime Series #1
There are the poppies still, a token of remembrance for those who have fallen in the line of duty in WWI on Flanders’ fields. Until this day we honour our forefathers who fought for a free Europe, free of tyranny. What made the war more horrible was when the trenches were assaulted by an until then unknown and hidden enemy, the vicious mustard gas.
What is the connection with Detective Chief Inspector Cyril Bennett of the Harrogate Police, who until recently was impeccably dressed, handsome and above all healthy? Malcolm Hollingdrake gives the reader no time to get acquainted but shows Cyril Bennett at his most vulnerable after his recent palsy, which paralysed the right half of his face. Still, he struggles on with the case on his desk: the bodies of two young children, buried in shallow graves many years ago, sometime in the seventies. ‘Impossible’ is not a word tolerated by Bennett, nor by his DS David Owen: both are determined to find those responsible and the parents of the little victims. The two infants share the same mother and after searching the old school records of Ripon College, Owen has found her: former student Mary Nixon, later to be married to the school’s Doctor Peter Flint. Reason enough to pay the Doctor a visit and when Bennett does, he is pleasantly surprised by the Doctor’s frankness as well as the charms of his housekeeper Janet.
The Doctor has no problem in telling Bennett about his life in Sierra Leone nor showing him the blood diamonds he received as a token of gratitude. Janet is equally frank when she invites Bennett to visit her in the summer in the Doctor’s establishment in the South of France “a small castle-style building, set in grounds with pool and garages and palm trees and a view towards the Mediterranean to die for.” Little does Bennett know that he has stumbled upon something much bigger than he could have dreamed of, a nightmare of chilling and appalling crimes with an international impact, involving young victims. Owen’s persistence in trying to find the parents of the young children, found in the graves, could with hindsight be a major breakthrough in finding those international criminals. However, both Bennett and his right hand DS Owen are yet totally unaware of the implications and far-reaching consequences of their investigations.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Young is obsessed with WWI and the sacrifices made by men. We, the readers, see him standing in a poppy covered field in Flanders, once the place where thousands of men risked their lives in the trenches. Did they see it coming, the invisible enemy the mustard gas first blinding them and then choking them to death? Millions of reminiscences are to be found in Flanders’ fields, the “1.45 billion shells fired during the senseless battles that had raged, harvesting the blood of youth.” It seems Lawrence is experiencing the pain and loss himself by paying tribute and honouring those men from long ago. But a growing suspicion is confirmed when the reader watches Lawrence harvesting those old shells, carefully securing the metal cylinders with the leftovers of the deadly poison. In his head, Lawrence hears whistles, the signal to send the soldiers over the trenches into the uncovered fields and unto the reach of the enemy’s firing arms. We experience a spine-chilling premonition of what Lawrence intends to do.
“They had no choice” is Lawrence’s saying and with ‘they’ he refers to the lost souls of WWI but also to the neglected elderly people living in nursing homes. Lawrence feels he has abandoned his mother in her hour of need as he discovered that she was abused in the nursing home. Her death weighs heavily on Lawrence’ conscience and for him, the anguish in his mother’s face just before she died was similar to the look of fear on the soldiers’ faces when they faced death. The image haunts Lawrence and that is why he is determined to seek revenge. As we watch him retrieve the poisonous gas from the cylinders, we can only shudder in horror and think of the people, about to suffer the same fate as those who died in WWI. Lawrence is so careful in eliminating every possible clue leading to him that it will be an enormous, if not an impossible job for the police, for DCI Bennett, his DS Owen and newly appointed DS Liz Graydon.
This is Malcolm Hollingdrake‘s first crime novel featuring the enigmatic DCI Cyril Bennett and it is a captivating and thrilling read. I love how the author describes his main characters, especially the detective team under DCI Bennett, DS Owen and DS Graydon and I hope (no expect!) to hear much more of these three in the next books of the series. It’s also intriguing because there are more cases than the one and the ending is something of a cliff hanger… but you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out!
The ‘DCI Cyril Bennett Harrogate Crime Series’ currently consists of four books:
#2 ‘Hell’s Gate’ (my review) – #3 ‘Flesh Evidence’ (my review) – #4 Game Point (review to follow on April 11th)
Each book can be read as a stand-alone – but I recommend starting with the first to get to know DCI Cyril Bennett and his beloved Harrogate.
About the Author
If you’re born in a library … no wonder you have it in you to be an author one day! That is what happened to Malcolm Hollingdrake and although he took a circuitous route via a teaching career, once challenged to do so, he started writing vigorously. And: Malcolm attended the in this book mentioned Ripon College. Malcolm has written a number of successful short stories and is currently working on the fourth book in the DCI Cyril Bennett Harrogate Crime Series. Did you know that Malcolm enjoys collecting works from Northern artists and attending art auctions? Yes, just like his protagonist Cyril Bennett! Malcolm Hollingdrake cherishes his home county, which is why his series of crime novels is set in Harrogate.
|Publisher||Bloodhound Books (21 Oct. 2016)|