Sutton, Henry - 'My Criminal World'
In the run-down East Anglian coastal town of Kingsmouth, a man out walking his dog finds the body of a young woman lying abandoned on the beach. Unusually, he doesn't report her to the police, but waits to see what happens.
The police arrive soon after, in the form of a team led by DCI Britt Hayes. Hayes is a cop in the ambitious young female detective mode, with a dangerous predilection for sex with strangers adding an unusual twist to her character.
The body is soon identified as a Latvian prostitute called Kristine, but Hayes' investigation meets an impenetrable wall of silence, even as the bodies begin to pile up (luckily, the author shies away from fashionable depictions of violence, and although there has been some post-mortem unpleasantness, we're not overwhelmed with the gruesome details).
Only the dog-walker, Howie Jones, has the power to nudge the investigation onto the right track - but he has motives of his own...
Meanwhile back in the real world, crime-writer David Slavitt is struggling in the throes of a midlife career crisis as he tries desperately to inject more fashionable sex and violence into his books. His books are shifting fewer units every year, his agent is bullying him into touring America, and he is seeing less and less of his wife Maggie. To cap it all, his butcher knows his name - but only because of taking credit card orders from him.
KRISTINE is Slavitt's last chance to create a winning formula and the series character that will save his career. He's working hard to change his style, but finds it difficult to concentrate amongst the all the other calls on his attention - mainly his growing belief that Maggie is cheating on him with one of her PhD students.
Flavours of Slavitt's real life leak into the book: a blunt Sabatier knife, the name Howie Jones (Slavitt's butcher), and the Latvian connection (Slavitt is big in Latvia, where one of his books has been staged as a play). He is just hitting his stride with the story when things take an unexpected turn.
In a way, MY CRIMINAL WORLD is asking for trouble. Slavitt dwells on issues such as developing pace and establishing sympathy in the early chapters, where the real author, Henry Sutton, should be developing pace and establishing sympathy. However, I think Sutton has readability enough to carry both stories and it will be interesting to see whether he develops either one into a successful series.
Overall MY CRIMINAL WORLD is a likeable and witty book-within-a-book.
Rich Westwood, England
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