For the first third of the book, I wasn’t sure I was reading a DCI Brendan Moran novel by British author Scott Hunter. I checked the titled page at least twice to make sure.
In Chapter 14, all becomes clear. But the first 13 chapters are set in 1976, and the Reading police are investigating the death of a shop owner. It appears to be a classic robbery gone awry, but Emma Hardy, 26, a newly appointed detective sergeant and in charge of the investigation, isn’t sure. It’s clear the shop owner knew his killer – he was bashed on the back of the head near the back door, as if he knew whomever had come to the back door. The till money is missing, which suggests a robbery, but DS Hardy is suspicious.
Her investigation chases down several promising leads; the shop owner wasn’t all he appeared to be. And a witness has reported seeing a suspicious man loitering near the shop shortly before the man was killed. The police artist draws a likeness, and it looks uncannily like one of Hardy’s own police detectives. And then DS Hardy goes missing. The investigation continues, and a suspect is apprehended with the dead man’s book of loans outstanding. The reader knows, or at least thinks he or she knows, what’s happened.
Fast forward 45 years. A body is found interred in the old police garage that’s being torn down. Knowing the date of construction leads Detective Chief Inspector and his team to check for missing persons in 1976. They discover the listing for DS Emma Hardy, but the body turns out to be a male, one also connected to the shop owner’s death in 1976.
The Cold Light of Death is the 8th mystery novel in the DCI Brendan Moran series. While the reader thinks the story (and the killer) is known, and this is a story of how Moran and his crew ferret out the truth, it becomes something different. And it turns out we didn’t know as much as we thought we did.
The “Irish Detective” series includes Black December, Creatures of Dust, Death Walks Behind You, A Crime for All Seasons, Silent as the Dead, Gone Too Soon, The Enemy Inside, When Stars Grow Dark, and The Cold Light of Death. Hunter has also published the novels The Trespass, The Ley Lines of Lushbury, Long Goodbyes, and The Serpent & the Slave, and the memoir Rattle and Drum. In addition to writing fiction, Hunter is an IT consultant and musician. He lives with his family in England.
The Cold Light of Death takes a while before it reaches the Brendan Moran story, but it turns out to be one of the best in the series, full of twists and surprises.