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I loved “The Dead Sit Round in a Ring”, Lawrence’s debut novel in this series, for its originality. “Nothing Like the Night”, the follow up, was OK, but I was neither overly impressed nor particularly thrilled. Thus I approached “Cold Kill” with some trepidation, as I hate to be disappointed. I needn’t have worried; it’s a page turner with an original writing style and more akin to the first in this Detective Sergeant Stella Mooney series than the second.
In a nutshell: As Christmas approaches, Mooney’s case puts her in London’s Holland Park with the viciously assaulted body of a young woman. The next day, Richard Kimber walks into the police station and confesses to the murder. But, ultimately, the team does not have quite enough evidence for a conviction and Kimber is released. Neither is the murder a one-off, so it seems. But who exactly is responsible and for what?
This was a nicely woven plot of many threads and twists to keep you guessing. Nothing I could predict came into play until it was made obvious, in which case the final chase commenced. Lawrence always manages to bring London, at its worst, to the table, homing in on Notting Hill where homes of £2m+ sit alongside sink estates. He mentions the contrast a lot in this book, but his plots home in on the activities and lives of those based in the estates, albeit “Cold Kill” takes a twist out of there.
Mooney knows those estates because she grew up in one of them. She understands the life and the risks. She chose the lawful path as opposed to the dealing and violent path. But the lawful path does not exclude her from the violence. Mooney is a DS and it is her job to bring the criminals to justice. In “Cold Kill” she appears to have an even bigger job of it, where her team is suffering from a pre-Christmas virus, including her boss, who makes it to the office to deal with the paperwork, whilst taking painkillers, cough medicine, whisky and the more-than-odd-fag to treat his symptoms. Mooney spends her time tracking a killer and avoiding the sneezes.
In “The Dead Sit round in a Ring” Mooney was embroiled in a relationship but having an affair. She left George, her architect/boat designer behind and established a relationship with the journalist, John Delaney, which goes on in “Cold Kill”. But a journalist is always after a good story, and when Richard Kimber is released, the journalist, Delaney, interviews him, thus threatening their relationship and the case.
As an aside to this, it is worth noting that crime fiction often includes consideration of contemporary social issues. Like Mark Billingham’s "Lifeless", this book considers the homeless in London where Delaney is working on a feature in the run up to Christmas. This sub-plot works alongside the main one, but eventually paths collide. It’s not as detailed as Billingham’s in terms of how the homeless live, but that’s because the authors write differently and produce a different type of book, though not too dissimilar when it comes to crime in London.
In addition to being the author of these novels, David Lawrence is also a scriptwriter and also, the poet David Harsent. He has also previously published under the name of Jack Curtis. It is perhaps the scriptwriting that comes through the most in the Stella Mooney novels where Lawrence treats us to very short passages that flit and float from character to character, allowing us to see into their everyday lives, on the spot. As a reader, expect to be a fly on the wall, or even on the shoulder of a character. Lawrence’s view is within that spectrum. The reader, like the author, is a fly or roving camera. That’s what makes these books different.
Mooney’s love life is not settled in this book. A flirtation can remain a flirtation or materialise into something else. Delaney can be the guy in her life or be something else. George, her previous partner, the boat designer and now in Seattle, can be a friend and a memory or something else.
The ends to tie up, here, are like straw. But it happens. Lawrence, it has to be said, works a mean and calculated path. A big “thumbs up” to this book. I am serial-killered out; it’s so boring and over-stretched a topic. This looked like it would go the same way from the synopsis and early pages, but never mentioned “serial killer” as such. It didn’t need to. And the twists provided led it into question anyway. This was a calculated original.
Not a rework of plots past, but like “The Dead Sit Round in a Ring”, very original. And very worth reading.
More on Lawrence/Harsent/Curtis here.
And for more, I suggest you just stick “David Lawrence, David Harsent, Jack Curtis” in Google. That’ll keep you going! But if you can, read the books. The Stella Mooney series is different and definitely worth a read!