I’m not normally a huge fan of the crime novel in which the detective (be they professional or amateur) is so much a part of the story as to make the crimes – and more importantly the victims – fade into insignificance. But Fiona (Fi) Griffiths offers an engaging and unique voice amongst crime solvers and although TALKING TO THE DEAD really was her story more than it was the story of any of its victims the book didn’t have the same egotism that the more traditional of these kinds of stories suffer from. A combination of Fi’s self-deprecating sense of humour and her genuine feeling for the victims she comes across sets her apart.
As the book opens Fiona is engaged in what I imagine is the fairly realistic, if unexciting, police work of trawling through the paperwork connected with an embezzlement case. However her colleagues are soon working on a major case – the death of a woman, possibly a prostitute, and her six year old daughter. Fiona wangles herself onto that case in the first of what becomes a series of unorthodox activities.
Although I don’t think it’s always true that you have to like a character to enjoy a book I do think that in this case the reader would have to at least appreciate Fiona’s personality, especially as the story is told in a first-person narrative. Happily for me I rather adored her. She is in her mid 20’s, has a philosophy degree from Cambridge and is a relatively new Detective Constable. Although her father has a somewhat shady past she is the product of a loving family but a period of significant illness in her teens has left its mark so that the growing into an adult skin that we all have to do has some particular challenges for Fiona. All of this makes her fascinating but it was her humour and her grand gestures on behalf of victims that made me love her.
Although a bit of judicious editing could have simplified and shortened TALKING TO THE DEAD without taking away any key elements it is, overall, a cracker of a yarn as well as an engaging character study. Aside from the slightly over-the-top ending, the bulk of the policing has a ring of credibility about it with dead ends and boring slog being just as crucial as the dramatic moments. We also meet Fiona’s family and one or two of her friends so there’s always something going on.
I can’t remember whose review it was that prompted me to buy this book more than two years ago but I’m glad I plucked it from the TBR pile and will definitely be seeking out the second book of the series as I am intrigued to see what happens next to Fiona, who reminded me a little of one of my other favourite crime solving heroines, Ruth Galloway.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Orion 
Length 378 pages
Book Series #1 in the Fiona Griffiths series
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