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With Death Wore White, Jim Kelly brings a cool modern twist to the traditional locked room murder mystery. Cool, literally, as the locked room in question is a snow-bound lay-by on the East Anglian coast. Nine cars are caught in a snow storm; two hours later, and with no footsteps in the snow, one body and eight suspects are found by DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine, out checking the nearby beach for washed up drums containing potentially hazardous material. This indeed forms a secondary plot which seems all too realistic as the story progresses…
Shaw and Valentine were introduced as stage-left characters in Kelly's last Philip Dryden novel, The Skeleton Man, and here he brings them their own investigation. They seem to arrive fully-formed in the reader's subconscious, backgrounds carefully – but with almost throw-away updates – filled in as the novel progresses; these backgrounds form such an important aspect of their working relationship that the reader does need these, and indeed, welcomes them as the case continues.
The plot, of necessity, includes a large cast of characters; without exception, they are carefully drawn and relevant. All have their parts to play in what is, in a positive reality, a traditional British mystery which draws the reader in and without doubt provides a criminal read par excellence. Jim Kelly has been awarded the Dagger in the Library from the CWA, and rightly so; his crime novels are eloquent and provide that most welcome of fixes for the crime reader. Death Wore White is a book you don't want to finish, but know you must.
… Ahead he saw someone walking back down the line of cars and trucks. A woman, forty-something, in an expensive yellow all-weather sailing jacket, waving a torch.
They met by the plumbers' van. 'I'm in the red Alfa Romeo,' she said. She produced a packet of cigarettes, fumbled until she got one between her lips and lit it with a gold lighter the size of a bullion bar.
'I should tell someone,' she said, implying that he'd have to do. 'The old guy in the Corsa behind me – that hideous little car – he said I could have some water if I needed it. So I went back.' She let the smoke circulate fully before ejecting it through her nose. 'I think he's dead.'
Death Wore White is available to purchase now (Penguin Books).