Lennon, Patrick - 'Corn Dolls'
CORN DOLLS is set in the increasingly popular crime fiction location of Cambridge and the Cambridgeshire Fens and is the first in a series featuring DI Tom Fletcher.
The book opens with Tom having been called to a gruesome death scene, a young man, Jake Skerrit, has fallen into an industrial shredder at his workplace after hours. Skerrit is known to get too close to machinery so it's not clear whether his death was an accident or murder. However when the security guard at the firm, Breakman Machinery, also dies an accidental death Tom feels there's more here than meets the eye. Especially when he finds a strange mural on the wall of the room where Skerrit was lodging and signs that the poor former student had suddenly come into money.
The investigation leads to the fen village of Thinbeach, a place known for an annual festival, the Thinbeach Wedding which is based on a Norman legend. The self-proclaimed squire, Alain de Minching, claims to be related to the knight referred to in the tale.
Interspersed in the current narrative, are passages from the point of view of a young boy, Ivan, who lives at the tractor making complex, the Niva Works, in the plains of Russia. As his tale unfolds it seems that Ivan's father was sent to England to fix some faulty tractors but never returned.
Flash forward some twenty-five years and the time has come for Ivan to take his revenge…
Tom has to strike a deal with Ivan, to find out the truth about Ivan's father, and so prevent more death and destruction, but the answers will change his life forever.
CORN DOLLS is an easy read and main character Tom is a complicated man but not a stereotypical fictional policeman ie is teetotal and is without any defining music taste, though he is divorced. I particularly liked his sidekick DS Sal Moresby who was strong, used her initiative and occasionally her fists. Unfortunately she's not in the next book, STEEL WITCHES, but is due to appear in the book after that.
The unique fen setting and climate was well conveyed, though I think Jim Kelly has the edge. What I enjoyed least about this book was the plot. It didn't really grab me, I wasn't that interested in the main mystery behind the modern deaths or what Ivan had planned. I found the passages from Ivan's childhood gripping and suspenseful and really he was a very sympathetic villain, so I was almost cheering for the opposition.
Also being from the Fens I found the fictional place names and local history distracting and the notion of parts of the county hating other parts based on their either being descended from Anglo-Saxons or Normans quite eye-brow raising, but maybe I had a sheltered upbringing.
STEEL WITCHES will be out in November 2007.
Karen Meek, England