The wife of a Conservative candidate for Parliament in Somerset in the U.K. is found stabbed to death in the couple’s home. It looks like a robbery gone badly. That’s how Detective Inspector Janice Courtenay treats it, until what looks like slam-dunk DNA evidence pointing to a villain turns out not to be slam-dunk after all. Especially when the villain turns up dead, hands bound and floating in the Bristol Channel.
Detective Inspector Nick Dixon would have been assigned the case, except he’s on suspension pending a hearing. During his last major case (Swansong), he neglected to tell his superiors of his personal connection to the victims. He cracked the case, but he also got himself into official trouble, and thus the suspension. But he’s being kept somewhat busy on a cold case more than two decades old.
But when the body of the suspected killer turns up floating in the channel, DI Courtenay gets to take a vacation, and Dixon, his way smoothed over by his superior officer, steps. He’s the first to suggest that there may have been not one but two killers. And neither appears to be the husband of the dead woman.
Dead Level is British author Damien Boyd’s fifth novel in the DI Nick Dixon series, and it mirrors the consistent suspenseful writing, well-plotted stories, and detailed characterization of its four predecessors. Dixon is a former barrister turned policeman, and he knows how to search legal documents and utilize the legal system when necessary. His methods, like his thinking and deductions, tend to the unorthodox, but his team, including his love interest Detective Constable Jane Winters, knows he gets the right results.
Geography and weather play a role here, as they often do in Boyd’s novels. This time, it’s a series of rainstorms that cause a river to flood, including the river by the murder scene, which is soon under 12 feet of water.
Dead Level is an enjoyable, fast-paced mystery, and lives up to the high quality standard that Boyd has maintained in the Nick Dixon series.
Photograph: Flooding last year in York, England, by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.