Chris Simms – The Edge (2009)

(This review was intended for rte but Sharon Wheeler got there first – her much superior one may be found at Our conclusions are pretty similar.)

DI Jon Spicer is enjoying a quiet Sunday morning with his wife Alice and daughter Holly when his world is shattered by a phone call from a police Superintendent from the Peak District informing him that a dismembered body has been found, and his brother’s mobile was in the clothing. Rushing to Haverdale Jon quickly ascertains that it is indeed his brother Dave’s body. Although the police at Haverdale are initially pleased that they are dealing with a policeman they, and especially Superintendent Mallin, turn hostile when Jon makes it clear that he is not going to accept their haphazard and lazy investigation, or their easy assumption that it was a drugs deal gone wrong which led to Dave’s death. In the face of their opposition Jon embarks on a quest for the truth and for vengeance which will threaten his marriage, his career and ultimately his life. He is driven by guilt over the fact that he had not maintained contact with Dave when his brother left the family home and descended into a nether-world of poverty and drugs. Meanwhile Dave’s partner Zoe and their sick baby Jake are trapped in a Manchester high-rise waiting for Dave to return , too scared to open the front door because her vicious ex-pimp is waiting outside.

THE EDGE is the fifth book in Simms’ DI Spicer series. In terms of plot it is something of an odd affair as both the motive and the killer turn out to be reasonably straight-forward, and Simms reveals who the killer is some way from the end. Far greater attention is paid psychologically to Spicer’s state of mind ,and sociologically to on the one hand Zoe and on the other to the world of egg-collectors. It turns out that Dave’s murder is likely to have been witnessed by a champion egg stealer who was stealing a clutch of osprey eggs on the night in question and so Spicer gets drawn into the complex business of tracking this elusive character down. In the course of this quest he plunges into the world of those devoted to both stealing and protecting eggs. The effect of this is that the book’s main concerns are somehow distanced from the actual resolution of the plot which has something of an odd effect.

As far as Spicer himself is concerned it is likely that a great deal more will be gained by those who are following the series, as background information about his families, both parental and conjugal, would add to ones appreciation of the story line. The idea of a policeman involved on a private quest for vengeance, taking the law into his own hands, while not new, provides a certain interest. But personally I did not warm that much to DI Spicer, who tends to the macho end of police protagonists. The excursions into both the drug and birding worlds were competently done but there was nothing really new or revelatory about them and the sociological observation tended to be commonplace (yet more people staring blankly at TV screens!) . On the other hand it is worth saying that at least the writing about drug-taking avoided being embarrassing which it so often is, so that must count as a plus.

Overall however competent is probably the best adjective for THE EDGE. The narrative disconnections mean it is a little hard to become fully involved, and the central plot lacks the complicating or complex elements which would add that quality the book needs. But there is little to really object to either and while it fails to excite this is certainly not a bad book.