Stuffed-Shirt by Michael Riley


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London coppers investigate multiple murders, all seemingly linked to a posh hotel in Mayfair, in this thriller.

Ex–DI Arthur Botley, night security officer at St. Clements Hotel, typically doesn’t handle problems in the laundry. But this time the chute’s blocked—by a man’s body. Police suspect the victim, dead from gunshots, was a guard because he’s wearing a holster (no gun) and the hotel has numerous VIPs, including a senator. Botley’s discovery of a torn gold watch leads him to speculate that a woman either is likewise dead or has run away, evidence and intuition he inexplicably keeps to himself. DS Ann Taylor, meanwhile, spots a female cadaver in her garden. She calls fellow coppers, but by the time she gets outside, the body’s gone. Ann rightly surmises that the two murders are connected, both originating from the hotel. But further examination reveals the man and woman were on a stakeout in their room and may be dead due to something they’ve witnessed. And it’s likely they were spies, both having been in the British army. Things only get more complex: hotel employee Russell Merrick’s dark past comes to light, while a known criminal, whom Botley had sought for information about the case, becomes another murder victim. Ann and Botley work together to get a killer (or killers) off the streets. Riley (Reading the Streets, 2015) packs the plot with twists, additional murders, and potential killers, complicating the story. It’s fortunately never convoluted, thanks to the author’s focus on the investigation: Ann meticulously peruses theories, such as a political conspiracy, and occasionally summarizes the ongoing case. Subplots, too, stay connected to the main plot. There’s a bit of romance between Merrick and copper Donna Strachen, for example, but his workplace/criminal past and her assisting pal Botley put them squarely in the middle of everything. Riley’s red herrings aren’t easy to write off, while the ending wraps up the dizzying narrative comprehensively—and entertainingly. It’s the prose, however, that’ll leave imprints in readers’ minds: “Hotels at night are strange planets where rare creatures, unfamiliar either with sunlight or moonlight, live undisturbed in luxuriant undergrowth.”

Fervent and alluring; another champion in the Botley series.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5171-1393-3
Page count: 450pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2016


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