Tuesday, 28 May 2019

The Body In The Mist - Nick Louth

A brutal murder hints at a terrifying mystery, and this time it’s personal.
A body is found on a quiet lane in Exmoor, victim of a hit and run. He has no ID, no wallet, no phone, and – after being dragged along the road – no recognisable face.
Meanwhile, fresh from his last case, DCI Craig Gillard is unexpectedly called away to Devon on family business.
Gillard is soon embroiled when the car in question is traced to his aunt. As he delves deeper, a dark mystery reveals itself, haunted by family secrets, with repercussions Gillard could never have imagined.  
The past has never been deadlier.
Welcome to the third instalment of the DCI Gillard series by Nick Louth, and what an instalment it is! Gillard is now happily married to Sam, still puzzling over why such a beautiful woman would want a grizzly workaholic like him, when everything is threatened by one phone call. A deadly hit and run has taken place in Devon, the victim is unidentifiable but the car belongs to one of Gillard's aunts and he is summoned to Devon to sort out the whole sorry mess.

The story is told from two different sides, from Gillard's point of view as the one who's family is being investigated, and from DI Jan Talantire's as the official investigating officer determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. It's clear from the start that Gillard is highly uncomfortable being back in his aunts company, and the two women couldn't be more different. Trish is a former teacher, living in the house she shared with her ex-husband, Howie, who ran away to Thailand and Barbara, large in both stature and personality, running the family farm and struggling to make ends meet. Thrown in to complicate the situation further is Podge, or Uncle Phillip, a former reverend well known for his social injustice campaigning and now living in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimer's and unable to walk.

It soon becomes clear that there is far more going on than what has already happened, and Gillard is dragged back into the nightmares of his childhood. Trying to deal with his abusive and abused aunts is more than he can bear but trying to distance himself is impossible and he's drawn back in almost against his will, bombarded with constant phone calls, having to drive back and forth to Devon, and discovering long buried family secrets, some of which are shocking even to Gillard as a serving police officer.

The Body In The Mist manages to be a well-written police procedural with multi-strand storylines converging together to make one of my favorite crime novels in a long time. Far from feeling spread out the various elements all weave together, forming a tight-knit tale which is impossible to put down, and impossible to predict who did it. Murders both old and new, a court case, and a sheep-killing beast are the main focus point of the book but it's the characters who balance out the story perfectly. Every single character, whether they're mentioned on every page or only appear once, is larger than life and not forgotten once you turn the last page. 

I'm exceedingly pleased that this is not my family but the person you have to feel sorry for throughout the entire novel is Sam, Gillard's wife. Deeply unsettled by his entire family, and especially the lecherous Podge, she starts to wonder just how well she knows her husband but stands by him and supports him through the whole case. I'm just not sure how supportive she'll continue to be given the twist in the tale, on the very last page, which will make you rethink and/or doubt everything you've just read. Brilliant! This series gets better with every book but you could also read this one without having read the first two as each is a separate story. I guarantee though, that you will want to go back to the beginning and read The Body In The Marsh anyway! Now starts the wait for book four...

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