J.M. Gregson: The Wages of Sin
8th in Peach series (2004)

>>A novice prostitute is found murdered after her
first night on the game. Inspector Peach sets out to find
her killer only to uncover a divorced policemen and a
Catholic priest as local clients. Peach cannot believe
one of them is the murderer and delves into the town’s
underbelly in his hunt.<< (Publishers blurb).

Sigh! This series seems to get worse rather than better.
The problem is simple. Gregson has decided that he
wants to make some serious sociological comments
and his writing has thus become increasingly serious,
one is tempted to stay leaden. Unfortunately he is not really
up to the task. His ‘theme’ here, as the plot summary reveals,
is, very obviously, prostitution. He gives us portraits of three
or four prostitutes, three or four clients(suspects) and a pimp.
None of these portraits really convince, though the clients
are better than the others, but even here Gregson never really
gets beyond stereotype.
It says something that the best part of this book is the golf match
between Peach and his idiot superior Tucker. Here Gregson is
on home ground and both the comedy and prose flow splendidly,
even if series readers will have seen it all before.
The book’s plot follows the usual Gregson pattern – assemble a
number of suspects with not much to pick between them and then
select one – but is even less convincing (although morally satisfying)
than usual.
In all this we return to the matter of whether it is better to write of
what you know. I don’t doubt that Gregson did some assiduous research
for this book (though I suspect it mainly consisted in talking to
policemen) but it is clear that he is writing as an outsider – he
doesn’t know this world and can’t make the imaginative leap
needed to reach it. Which is all rather a pity because when he
concentrates on plot and, to a lesser extent, humour he can be an enjoyable
read.

(November 2007)

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