A Welsh antiques dealer is lured to a museum near a small town in Wales and murdered with what is eventually determined to be an old German handgun from the World War II period. Little can be gleaned from the crime scene; the murder happens at night and there are no witnesses.
Suspects abound. As Detective Inspector Ian Drake and Detective Sergeant Sara Morgan of the North Wales Police Service investigate, they soon learn that the killer might be the victim’s wife, his common law wife, a gangster who deals in antique thefts, any one of a number of people protesting a local development project, and several other people.
Drake has a set of personal problems. He’s recently divorced and trying to stay in the lives of his two daughters. Politics in the police force always threatens to interfere with investigations, including this one. And Drake is an obsessive-compulsive when it comes to cleanliness, germs, the cleanliness of his car, and the orderliness of his desk. He’s a good investigator, but he behaves almost automaton-like, until he meets a history professor during the investigation. DI Ian Drake starts falling in love and the romance saves the man (and the reader from getting aggravated).
Puleston publishes two series of Welsh police detective stories. Detective Inspector Ian Drake is with the North Wales Police Service, and Detective Inspector John Marco is with the South Wales Police Service. A Time to Kill is the fifth DI Ian Drake mystery.
Other killings begin to happen, and Drake and Morgan find themselves in a race against the killer’s next victims. The motive, as it is often is, is buried in the past but wrapped in events in the present.
A Time to Kill is a good story; Puleston writes consistently good police mysteries. One minor oversight: we don’t learn Sara Morgan’s last name until almost a fifth of the way through the story, with her first name as the only reference. It’s a small thing, and fortunately doesn’t detract from the high quality of the overall story.
Top photograph by Nick Scheerbart via Unsplash. Used with permission.