Welsh mystery writer Stephen Puleston has two police detective series – Detective Inspective Ian Drake in northern Wales and Detective Inspector John Marco in Cardiff in southern Wales. Apart from being officers in the Welsh Police Service, the two have little in common.
Drake is something of an obsessive when it comes to cleanliness; Marco seems much the opposite. Drake is married with two daughters, with his police work taking a serious toll on his marriage; Marco is divorced.
Both, however, are dogged when it comes to procedure and thoroughness.
Dead Smart is a “prequel novella” for the John Marco series. The series includes three full-length novels; I suspect the prequel novella was written after the three main stories. A man is found dead, his throat cut, in the parking lot of the Cardiff football (soccer) stadium at the end of a game. Despite the hundreds of people milling about after the game, no one seems to have witnessed the death or anything connected to it.
Marco and his detective sergeant, Pierce Boyd, have the victim’s identity, but little else. There’s no apparent motive, and even the victim’s estranged wife and son have any suggestions as to whom might have killed the man. The man’s cell phone is missing, and that becomes the jumping off place for the investigation. And what looks like only murder turns out to be something far more involved and complex.
Puleston writes from inside his detectives’ heads and skin, and the reader quickly comes to see what is happening through their eyes. Much of what they see and do is based on experience, plodding through details, wading through records like bank statements and car registrations – exactly how much police detective work is done.
Dead Smart is a good story, and a good introduction to the Marco series.
Top photograph: The skyline of Cardiff, Wales.