Pawson, Stuart - 'Grief Encounters'
The snappily titled GRIEF ENCOUNTERS by Stuart Pawson is the 12th in the series of police procedurals featuring DI Charlie Priest of the East Pennine force and his team, set in Heckley, a former Yorkshire mill town.
In GRIEF ENCOUNTERS Charlie Priest is in charge of a murder investigation after a middle aged woman, Magdalena, is found dead in a Heckley Park with nothing to identify her, save for a tattoo marking her as "property of the pope". It turns out that Charlie Priest was acquainted with the deceased; she used to model for his art classes at University, giving him a personal stake in finding her killer. His obvious starting point is to find out just who "the pope" may be, and whether he was involved in the murder. A secondary plot strand features two couples who enjoy playing a rather sadistic game, gleefully plotting to discredit various pillars of Yorkshire society. The possibility of this manipulation comes to Charlie Priest's attention when a superior officer, Colin Swainsby, retires under a cloud, and is persuaded to confide the grisly detail.
GRIEF ENCOUNTERS is a carefully plotted, enjoyable quick read. Stuart Pawson skilfully subverts the usual cliches in depicting his hero. Although DI Priest is single, he is more interested in painting abstracts for the police fete and going for hikes to local beauty spots than drinking himself to destruction. Characterisation and dialogue are subtle yet realistic - Stuart Pawson captures the relationships between police officers and the inanities of office life very well. This series should be to the taste of those who enjoy the earlier Dalziel and Pascoe or Inspector Banks novels.
Laura Root, England