Wednesday, 11 April 2018

KEITH NIXON - DIG TWO GRAVES (2017)


Synopsis/blurb.....

Was it suicide ... or murder?

When teenager Nick Buckingham tumbles from the fifth floor of an apartment block, Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray answers the call with a sick feeling in his stomach. The victim was just a kid, sixteen years old. And the exact age the detective's son, Tom, would've been, had he not gone missing at a funfair ten years ago. Each case involving children haunts Gray with the reminder that his son may still be out there - or worse, dead. The seemingly open and shut case of suicide twists into a darker discovery. Buckingham and Gray have never met, so why is Gray's number on the dead teenager's mobile phone?

With his boss, Detective Inspector Yvonne Hamson, Gray begins to unravel a murky world of abuse, lies, and corruption. An investigator from the Met is called in to assist, setting the local police on edge. And when the body of Reverend David Hill is found shot to death in the vestry of Gray's old church, Gray wonders how far the depravity stretches and who might be next. Nothing seems connected, and yet there is one common thread: Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray, himself. As the bodies pile up, Gray must face his own demons. Crippled by loss but determined to find the truth, Gray takes the first step on the long road of redemption.

Set in the once grand town of Margate in the south of England, the now broken and depressed seaside resort becomes its own character in this dark detective thriller. Dig Two Graves is the first book in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray. The crime series is perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James.

"Keith Nixon does for Margate what Peter James did for Brighton … As dark and brooding as the wind-lashed shores of the North Sea, and with its disturbing echoes of the Elm Guest House scandal and suggestions of deep-seated institutional corruption, Dig Two Graves is a superb addition to the rich Brit Crime scene."
- Tim Baker, CWA shortlisted author of Fever City

An interesting series opener with Nixon's Solomon Gray. Gray has issues. The disappearance of his son, Tom ten years ago still haunts him. He holds himself accountable for Tom's disappearance. The aftermath - the decline of his marriage, the suicide of his wife and his ongoing separation from his surviving daughter - are all matters of ongoing regret. He still harbours hopes of finding his son alive and every spare minute is spent on reviewing the case file or exploring new possibilities however unlikely or tenuous. It's fair to say a huge shadow blights Gray's life and his sorrow resonates throughout the book.

The case in hand  - a sixteen year old boy going over a fifth floor balcony, suicide or something else?
This is a police procedural - so something else is the order of the day.

I liked this one, I enjoyed the dynamics of the police force involved in and around Gray. His direct boss is Yvonne Hamson. Her boss Carslake is an old friend of Gray's and the personal connection sometimes irritates her as Gray can on occasion try and circumvent the chain of command. The other member of the team is Michael Fowler. We also have interaction and a sympathetic relationship with the pathologist, Ben Clough .

Other deaths follow and there is also the involvement of a Met Officer in the original case. The dead sixteen year old having had some London links.

The setting is Margate, a Kent seaside resort that has definitely seen better days. That I visited the town itself a year or two ago, lent a certain familiarity to the backdrop. Definitely somewhere I want to return to, though probably only on the written page.

Dig Two Graves is short for a police procedural - approximately 230 pages long - though the novel never feels rushed. Nixon's just gets to where he wants to take the reader without any undue fuss. That said the relationships and characters of the main players are developed and interesting. There is a resolution to the initial tragedy and the subsequent deaths, but there is definitely some unfinished business for Solomon Gray.

4 from 5

Keith Nixon has his website here.

Burn the Evidence is the second in the Solomon Gray series and was read not long after this one.
Nixon also has a couple of other series under his belt - the Konstantin Files and a series with Caradoc, set in Ancient Britain. Some of each have been previously enjoyed.

Read in March, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 226
Source - Net Galley after approval from publisher Bastei Entertainment
Format - Kindle

8 comments:

  1. This sounds like a good 'un, Col. It's one of those times when your interests and mine overlap. I'm often a bit wary of main characters who have a lot of personal demons, but it sounds as though Gray doesn't sound too far gone...

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  2. That's a great title isn't it? I mean, you're not going to mistake it for a romantic comedy or a cozy mystery... this sounds interesting: child abuse themes are problematic for me, but everything else sounds good.

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    1. I think you would get on well with this one.

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  3. Not sure I am up for this one, Col. I do enough worrying without adding fictional kids to the mix. But the last paragraph of your review could turn me around.

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    1. You might enjoy it more than you would think, Elgin, but there's only so many books you can read in the available time.

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  4. I don't like mysteries with a protagonist with a past tragedy weighing on him/her but you can't really avoid them nowadays. I do like a police procedural, so might give this one a try someday.

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    1. I kind of like the past tragedy trope as long as it doesn't overwhelm the tale. It's a tricky balance.

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