Book review: The Deepest Grave by Harry Bingham
For the past four years, Harry Bingham has been wooing a growing army of fans with his outrageously entertaining DS Fiona Griffiths thrillers.
The Deepest Grave is the sixth book in a gripping police procedural series that pits one of crime fiction’s most unconventional cops against some of the murder mystery world’s most extravagant and outlandish plots.
But that is all part of the sheer enjoyment of these first rate thrillers… by the author’s own admission, an abrasive, cannabis-smoking detective who likes communing with the dead is not the norm, but neither too was that ‘more-than-human’ mastermind Sherlock Holmes.
As for plots which seem exceedingly ‘exotic,’ Bingham insists that they all have ‘a firm basis in reality’ and, anyway, he relishes the fun and freedom of never quite knowing where a story will end up.
And there really is no knowing how Fiona’s latest case will end as we head off again to the rugged Welsh countryside with the straight-talking, borderline genius police sergeant when a crime from the deep dark past puts her future at stake.
It has been 453 days since Cardiff police’s maverick detective Fiona Griffiths had her last ‘proper corpse’ and just as she was starting to get bored ‘up pops a beauty.’
Dr Gaynor Charteris, a 53-year-old archaeology lecturer, has been found decapitated in the living room of her home in a small rural village. By her side is an antique broadsword and buried deep in her chest are three spears.
The ‘stagey’ presentation of the body, laid out like a gruesome crossword clue, seems to be aimed at sending out a message, and Fiona knows to solve the murder she must work out what it is saying.
Dr Charteris had been working on a local dig, excavating the remains of an Iron Age fort and Fiona learns from one of the student archaeologists that some of their ‘finds’ have been stolen from a storage shed.
Puzzled as to why anyone would want to kill the genial, respected and well-liked archaeologist, Fiona’s investigation ‘keeps getting tugged under by the past’ and she unearths evidence of a crime that seems to have its origins in the legendary King Arthur’s greatest showdown, The Battle of Badon.
But it is turning into an inquiry so bizarre that getting her superiors to take it seriously is going to be Fiona’s toughest job, especially when it starts to put the lives of her loved ones in danger…
Fiona is an intriguing and delightfully complex leading lady… impulsive, abrupt to the point of rudeness and yet innately caring and intuitive, her abrasive qualities are always tempered by allowances for her mental vulnerability and her gutsy determination to always seek out the truth.
The unsettling events of her early years are a simmering facet of her character, as too is her mystery illness which is finally revealed in a gripping and emotional story packed with fascinating Welsh history and fast-paced action.
As always, Bingham’s research is powerfully impressive, the dialogue sparkling and his writing fluent, steeped in atmosphere and totally captivating.
Roll on feisty Fiona’s next case…
(Orion, paperback, 12.99)