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James, Christina - 'Sausage Hall'
Paperback: 256 pages (Nov. 2014) Publisher: Salt Publishing ISBN: 1907773827

"The thing is, they found something else down there."
"What was it? A body?" She gave a short laugh.
"Not exactly. A skeleton. Three skeletons, actually."

SAUSAGE HALL is the third crime novel by Lincolnshire writer Christina James, the follow-up to IN THE FAMILY and ALMOST LOVE. Throughout the series, everyman copper Inspector Tim Yates is helped in his investigations by the tireless and invaluable DC Juliet Armstrong and his police-researcher wife Katrin.

This time the mystery is centred around Laurieston House, the grand Sutterton dwelling (known as Sausage Hall by the locals) owned by the wealthy de Vries family. Kevan de Vries is MD and CEO of de Vries Enterprises, a large agricultural firm with factories across the county.

The book opens when a routine investigation into an interrupted burglary at Laurieston turns up a cache of five blank UK passports in the cellar, which in turn leads to the discovery of three skeletons buried under the floor.

Treading carefully - de Vries is a man of some influence, especially with Tim Yates's boss - the police begin to investigate both cases. De Vries is summoned home from St Lucia, where he is starting a tourism business, to help with their enquiries.

Matters soon take an even more murky turn when the body of a young East European employee at a de Vries factory is found in woods near Sandringham.

Put it all together, and the de Vries household has a lot of explaining to do.

Kevan de Vries is unwilling to help the police, hiding behind his Rotary Club friendship with Yates's Superintendent and his power-dressing solicitor Jean Rook. But is he merely protecting his seriously ill wife and fragile teenage son?

A further mystery is that Kevan seems to despise his right-hand man, the oily Tony Sentance, yet keeps him around:

There could be only two reasons why he tolerated his oleaginous and evidently to him hateful henchman: either Sentance was performing some service that no-one else could fulfil, or he was exerting a hold over de Vries or a member of his family.

James specialises in mixing suspense-flavoured first-person and historical narratives in with the police-procedural. In SAUSAGE HALL she uses Kevan's voice to narrate events from the point of view of a troubled family man. The history comes from the recovered diary of Florence Jacobs, a previous resident of Sausage Hall, which offer clues to the identities of the three bodies in the cellar. The police are all essentially public-spirited and amiable, with the possible exception of Tim's ambitious boss. This time, the tireless Juliet gets a richly-deserved romantic sub-plot.

SAUSAGE HALL works as a stand-alone novel, so you don't need to begin with the first book in the series.

Rich Westwood, England
January 2015

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 22/01/2015 13:41