Review: TALKING TO THE DEAD by Harry Bingham

Talking To The Dead - Bingham,16794fI’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 [2012]
ISBN 9781409140870
Length 378 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #1 in the Fiona Griffiths series

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8 Responses to Review: TALKING TO THE DEAD by Harry Bingham

  1. This one is also on my TBR so I’m glad to read such a positive review.

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  2. Bernadette – It certainly does help a lot of you have at least some connection with the main character of a story, even if you don’t exactly love that person. But it’s even better if you do really like that character, and I’m glad you liked Fi. And along with everything else, what a treat to have a sleuth who actually has a more or less functional family and doesn’t constantly try to drown sorrows.

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  3. Lainy says:

    I was in the minority with this one and rated it 2/5 – I felt the case took a back seat to the detective and her behaviour was chaotic and dangerous. I agree with you about the editing and think the book would have been far more enjoyable, for me, had it had it. I think if there is more about Fiona’s past that would help maybe get more on board with the character.

    Always good to hear other peoples views and as I said in my review, the cover is what drew me to it, I am not normally a commenter on covers but the edition I had was vibrant and deserved a wee mention.

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

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  4. MarinaSofia says:

    I rather liked this one (as you said, I liked Fiona, even though she is terribly reckless at times) and am curious to read the next two in the series. I wonder if the back story will take more of a back seat, so to speak, in those.

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  5. Kay says:

    I’ve had this one on my Kindle for over a year. Need to get to it soon. I suspect that I will enjoy meeting Fi. Thanks for the reminder!

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  6. kathy d. says:

    I was hesitating on this series, but if Fiona reminded you of Ruth Galloway, I’m in. I’ll try it.

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  7. kathy d. says:

    I’m now reading this and enjoying it.

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  8. kathy d. says:

    Well, I’m still reading this book and just plunged right into it, and took a break from my dvds here. And I, too, like it and Fiona. It really is a character study of her, but her thoughts on the crimes in the book and the plight of murdered women are quite compassionate.
    However, I do not think she’s like Ruth Galloway at all. She takes more risks and sometimes has bad judgment. And she’s slightly nutty. Ruth Galloway is totally sane, just a bit of a noncomformist about her life style.
    I think Fiona is more like S.J. Bolton’s Lacey Flint.
    But we’ll see how it turns out.
    This is the book pulling me out of my dvd and tv watching.

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