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James, Christina - 'Almost Love'
Paperback: 360 pages (June 2013) Publisher: Salt Publishing ISBN: 1907773460

ALMOST LOVE is the second book in the Lincolnshire-set DI Yates series by Christina James. Yates's quirk is his normality: he is an average guy who happens to be a policeman. In the first book, IN THE FAMILY, he investigated a thirty-year-old murder, This time round, the case is contemporary but still deeply rooted in the past.

Dame Claudia McRae is a Margaret-Rutherford-esque archaeologist who made her name in the 1930s. DI Yates is called in when she disappears with no notice from her cottage near Peterborough. The only physical evidence is a smear of blood in her hallway - "a crescent of colour that arced across the wall as if daubed by an abstract artist or a naughty child" - enough to kick-start a serious inquiry.

Juliet Armstrong, Yates's DC, is a meticulous researcher and soon manages to uncover McRae's links to far-right politics and her controversial and largely discredited theories about an ancient Nordic civilisation. Could the answer to her disappearance lie in her own history and her association with Norwegian neo-fascists?

As Juliet scours the internet, Yates is tackling McRae's nearest and dearest: her decidedly odd nephew Guy Maichment and her immaculate secretary-companion Jane Halliwell. You wouldn't trust either of them as far as you could throw them.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Lincolnshire, the story follows Alex Tarrant. Alex is the sole employee of the Spalding Archaeological Society, an organisation of grumpy old men devoted to the history and archaeology of Lincolnshire. The Society doesn't quite trust women, and she has few allies among its officers. Amongst her friends is Edmund Baker, the Heritage Officer for the County. And he has his eye on Alex. The older and unkempt Baker is an unlikely seducer, but he finds Alex at a vulnerable time in her marriage to her social-worker husband, and begins to get under her skin. Their growing and somewhat halting relationship is powerfully described.

A final aspect to the story is an organised-drugs gang trying to develop a foothold in Lincolnshire, recruiting local children to deliver packages by bicycle.

This is an absorbing and generously written book. As with IN THE FAMILY, the police investigation is balanced by a more personal and emotional narrative, maintaining the reader's interest. It is this narrative that is ultimately more memorable.

A third book is in the pipeline from James's publisher Salt, so this is a series to watch.

Rich Westwood, England
April 2014

Rich blogs at Past Offences.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 25/04/2014 15:34