Written by James Craig — The first Inspector Carlyle novel came out in 2011 and already the ninth in the series has arrived. At the same time, Carlyle’s prolific creator James Craig has started a new series set in Germany, and introduced another featuring Daniel Hunter, an all-action, commando-style hero operating off the grid. In All Kinds of Dead, you’ll see London detective James Carlyle working a case and also find out about Hunter’s genesis, if you happen to be following that series.
The author has a wonderful knack for telling a well-grounded story, that seems real enough while packing in both action and personality. The Carlyle books are more or less police procedurals – they’re entertaining and might open your eyes to a few things going on in the world, but the author doesn’t aim to create much psychological depth. What happens, happens – that’s often how Carlyle sees things, as he aims for a certain sort of justice… in the end.
The stall is set early on. Andy Carson is a soldier, and a cold-blooded killer, back from Afghanistan and in the metaphorical stocks. He killed two injured Taliban fighters, but the incident was recorded. Military policeman Daniel Hunter has tracked down and arrested Carson, but before the man’s court martial is over he’s busted out of military prison in deadly fashion. Two soldiers are killed in the operation.
Carson has been ‘recruited’ by a gang planing a diamond heist at London City Airport. The diamonds will help bail out a financial consortium that’s accrued bad debts, but Carson’s really just the point man when they intercept the carrier of diamonds. His new employers have underestimated just how trigger-happy he can be. Knowing that Hunter will be after Carson like a dog wants its bone, the crew decide to kidnap Hunter’s family in order to keep him at bay until they’ve got their hands on the stones.
And that’s where Carlyle comes into the story. His colleague Sergeant Alison Roche is at the school on a police errand when the gang shows up to kidnap Hunter’s wife and children. She attempts to stop the abduction but gets belted one and the crew make their escape. Carlyle and Hunter hook up to chase down the gang. Both are operating out of jurisdiction – Hunter being a military policeman, and Carlyle simply off his patch.
Carlyle has a few other matters on his plate too. His father’s got terminal cancer. Carlyle asks his old friend Dominic Silver – once a major drug dealer, but now a legitimate art gallery owner – to supply him with drugs to alleviate his father’s pain. And Silver has problems of his own. A mobbed-up property developer is using underhanded tactics to shift everyone on the block where his gallery is located in order to build luxury flats. A woman has already died in suspicious circumstances. The machinations of this secondary plot line go on while Hunter and Carlyle track the deadly diamond thieves.
Some laugh out loud moments of humour are dotted throughout the story – it’s a real plus. At one point Carlyle loses the drugs Silver has supplied to him, and is forced to go through the garbage piled on the curb, much to the delight of the bin men. And there’s that wry sort of humour that Carlyle takes with him everywhere too, relaying the cynical thoughts he has about his colleagues and the criminals alike. Hunter, meanwhile, is living on adrenaline, desperate to find his family.
The characters come out nicely rounded as the story lines develop, but unfortunately the changes of pace make the book a little too uneven. After a couple of brutal acts that are core to the main story, the tension is broken by a cut away to a funny and slightly absurd scene, deadening the momentum. The nuance and personality that the novel offers, which make it a tickling read, come at the expense of the excitement, at times, and it doesn’t help that Carlyle just steps out of the pursuit of the diamond gang leaving it all to Hunter.
You don’t need to have read all the previous Carlyle novels to enjoy All Kinds of Dead. Backstory is seamlessly presented as the story moves around all over London, with the city and its woes forming a lively backdrop for the action. You’ll meet an extensive cast of side characters too, from an ex-IRA man working in finance to a bent rookie cop, and on to several sorts of bad guy – some smooth, some clinical, and some downright crazy. An entertaining read, and one that neatly explains why Daniel Hunter is the way he is, if you happen to have read Shot at Salvation.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars