Books 4 and 5 in the Peach series.

A Turbulent Priest which sees the murder of
a priest (surprise, surprise) is well up to
standard – Peach’s baiting of his appalling
superior Tucker is carried to new heights in
this book. Indeed Gregson seems to make
Tucker a summation of everything he dislikes
in modern Britain – the teasing is merciless.

The Lancashire Leopard is the weakest Gregson
I have read to date and the reason for this is not
hard to find. It is a serial killer book (the Lancashire
Leopard being his invented name). Now it is not
merely that I dislike serial killer books, it is also
the fact that this does not chime well with the humour
with which the Peach books are inter-laced. I do
not mean that the other books do not treat of serious
topics (in A Turbulent Priest paedophilia for instance).
But they allow space for Tucker-baiting and for the
progress of Peach’s affair with his sergeant (Lucy Blake);
in The Lancashire Leopard these elements seem anomalous.
Gregson is writing out of his comfort zone and it does not
come off. It is probably true of many writers that they
have a comfort zone and when they leave it failure
beckons. And I am not being in the least critical of
comfort zones – far better to do one thing well than
many things badly (and the one thing – a decent plot
based mystery – is far from easy!). Only really great
writers can vary their tone/direction/sub-genre successfully
(eg: Hill).
Still even a writer’s failure helps us understand them better.

(June 2007)

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