An English inspector and a Polish detective sergeant investigate the murder of a German businessman’s daughter in the author’s debut novel, the first of the Rialto trilogy.
Inspector Gordon Carpenter of Special Branch receives most of his assignments from MI5, who sends him to Eastbourne, England, after the body of a young German model washes ashore. Carpenter is partnered with Detective Sgt. Lilka Kaminska, a native of Poland who sometimes tracks Polish and Slavic criminals in foreign countries. The inspection of three apparently discarded mobile phones reveals that one phone contains a text message with a single word: “KILL.” The two officers make their way to the Channel Islands and stumble upon a possible connection to the recent bombing of a research facility—specializing in mobile phones. Author Wensley has developed fully realized characters, especially Carpenter and Kaminska, but there’s little in the way of an actual investigation. When the partners learn of a second murder with the same M.O., they first buy new clothes, stop for coffee and sandwiches, and shop for shoes; only then does Carpenter call to get the specific location of the crime scene. Potentially interesting subplots—youthful thieves snatching the inspector’s laptop and a suicidal man—have only a superficial link to the girl’s death. Several scenes, however, are unquestionably witty, even when the protagonists are simply eating or having drinks. Another plus is the strong female presence: Carpenter’s boss, Special Branch Chief Inspector, is also female, as are two MI5 agents who claim they were sent to act as bodyguards for Carpenter in the Channel Islands. The book leaves some of the plot open-ended, with the possibility of more story to follow.
Not much mystery, but with such fetching characters and an understated charm, most readers won’t mind.