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Pawson, Stuart - 'Shooting Elvis'
Hardcover: 288 pages (Feb. 2006) Publisher: Allison & Busby ISBN: 0749082674

One reviewer in Amazon says of Pawson's Detective Inspector Charlie Priest: "Charlie is more of a Dixon than a Sweeney policeman". This is a fact - so it's a relief to know one can choose to be spared the prurient details of psychopathic sadism beforehand, but still enjoy a cracking good plot, without too much gritty realism. This is Stuart Pawson's elevent crime novel about DI Priest's operations in Heckley Police HQ in Yorkshire, so better late than never.

The action starts immediately with Charlie and his colleague, DC Sparkington, being called to a bizarre suicide by electrocution. An old man with no discernible problems, is found sitting at home, with live wires round his thumbs. What intrigues Charlie is that the electric cable is new but there was a decent length of it on the vacuum under the stairs. So later, he buys some cable, takes it home and asks Sonia, the love in his life, to try binding her thumbs with it. They discover it would be impossible for the old man to have twisted the wires in the way they were found, without some help, that is. Assisted suicide or murder?

Charlie and Sonia met six months ago during another case. She had been an international athlete - the media called her "La Gazelle" - and at that time, she was entered to run in the Atlanta Olympics, but smashed her knee in a car accident just before she was due to leave, and with that - all her dreams, and everybody else’s - were smashed too. With encouragement, and some enlightening advice from an old blind physiotherapist, Charlie runs with her to strengthen the knee, and this is the gentle backdrop to his life.

Parallel to the action, before several of the apparently, unconnected deaths in the county, the reader is introduced to the activities of a man with well-polished shoes, who is acting as a self appointed and obliging assassin for which he charges a modest fee. Soon, any unexplained death in the Heckley area is immediately questioned and treated as suspicious - and with this procedure, a pattern emerges. Finding the bodies is not difficult for the police, but discovering the reason for their deaths is time consuming. In time, several mysteries are gradually resolved by Charlie's team, sifting through the evidence and making sense of the clues.

The person with shiny shoes is depending upon the media to report his murders, this way it provides his clients with proof of the assassination and enables him to be paid. But he is rattled to read that the Heckley CID are getting closer to his reasons for the deaths and his behaviour becomes suddenly personal and malign. When Charlie uncovers material proving the assassin had access to inside information, and when a person connected to Sonia is killed for no reason, he applies to carry a gun.

I didn't work out who the killer was, but the "Elvis" in the title is the cut-out figure in the shooting range, used for target practice.

Read another review of SHOOTING ELVIS.

Mary Wilde, England
May 2006

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 27/11/2011 09:21