A debut crime thriller in which a forensic scientist is found murdered in England’s enormous Brookwood Cemetery.
Pandora Kingdom is a talented homicide detective in Surrey, England. She’s also a double amputee, having lost an arm and leg to a bomb in Afghanistan. Over 20 years solving murders, however, has made her a tough, go-to detective, so she’s assigned to the case of Susan Thompson. The victim, a forensic scientist with an interest in body decomposition, was found in Brookwood Cemetery. She was shot in the head and her hands were nailed to a gravestone. At the crime scene, Pandora teams with MI5 agent Steve Bridger, who informs her that Susan researched, among other things, how chemical weapons affect pig corpses (since it’s illegal to use human bodies). Eventually, the investigators learn that Susan was fairly promiscuous—with both men and women—and enjoyed living beyond her means. Large money transfers in and out of Susan’s bank account and a storage unit (filled with strange, telling contents) point toward why someone might have killed her. But as fresh bodies begin piling up, the case assumes greater urgency. Did Susan die for the selling of government secrets, angering a lover or both? Debut author Cole begins this new crime series in a striking locale and imbues the narrative with generous historical and police procedural knowledge. The immediately likable Pandora thrives in a male-dominated field without being completely humorless, like when she asks, “Are you checking out my wooden leg Mr. Bridger?” There’s also a touch of whimsy in scenes when she speaks with the ghost of a soldier named Daniel Sutton. And while the trope of a promiscuous victim is familiar, Cole handles it with subtlety. The narrative’s main flaw is that the punctuation occasionally slips (“What is with, the red tape?”). These moments don’t detract from a smartly paced tale, however, thick with chilly ambiance and some thoroughly shocking deaths. The second volume will be eagerly awaited.
A truly instructive debut characterized by heart, wit and restraint.