Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Stephen Puleston’s “Worse Than Dead”

The ferry from Dublin to Holyhead in Wales is arriving on schedule, one of its three daily round-trip runs. It’s bringing trucks, cars, passengers – and this time, a murder victim. One of the ferry engineers was found dead in the car park section of the boat, a place he shouldn’t have been under normal circumstances.

Detective Inspector Ian Drake with the Wales Police Service is called from a boring training seminar, and undertakes the case with Detective Sergeant Caren Waits. What they will eventually uncover in Worse Than Dead by Stephen Puleston is far more complicated – and criminally endemic in the local community – than a single murder.

This is the second of three Inspector Drake novels written by Puleston (he’s also written two novels in the Inspector Marco novels, set in southern Wales). Trained as lawyer, Puleston brings a wealth of understanding of criminal law (and police procedure) into these stories.

Stephen Puleston
With Drake, Puleston has drawn a rather unexpected kind of police detective. He drives fast, often very fast when he can get away with it. He works Sudoku puzzles incessantly, and often needs to logic of solving them to start his work day. He’s also rather neurotic about cleanliness and order, whether it’s a car interior, his desk, or the fast food that passes for nourishment in a police station. Drake also listens to popular music, and some of the songs of Bruce Springsteen are featured in this novel.

But it’s his obsession with order and logic – and a bit of luck – that ultimately drives Drake and his team to solving their crimes, and especially this one. Bodies begin to multiply, and it becomes clear that powerful men with much to lose financially are trying to take care of loose ends.

Worse Than Dead is every bit as good as the first Inspector Drake story, Brass in Pocket.


Photograph: One of the Dublin to Wales ferries.

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