Paul Charles – The Beautiful Sound of Silence (2009)

(an unused rte review)

THE BEAUTIFUL SOUND OF SILENCE opens dramatically when a man is burnt to death in the Bonfire Night conflagration at Primrose Hill. It soon emerges that the murdered man was recently retired police Superintendent David Peters. DI Christy Kennedy soon finds that he has a wealth of suspects on his hands. Peters was far from being of good character in either his personal or professional life, and his death is certainly not mourned by his wife or the many victims of his corrupt practices. The problem for Kennedy is sorting out which of the many available motives has led one of Peters’ victims to strike back in such a dramatic and public fashion.

This is the ninth in the Christy Kennedy series although it was new to me. Unfortunately the opening, which is unquestionably a strong one, struck me as the best thing about the book. The first thing which cannot be avoided is that Paul Charles is not a very good writer. At times this may be attributed to slip-shod editing as in one case where the wrong name is used, but overall the prose is not of the standard one might wish for. However this would be excusable if the book had any other strong attributes, in particular a noteworthy plot; but in the event the plotting is only average. The distinctive mark of this book, and I would presume the series, is that a great deal of time is devoted to Kennedy’s ruminations on crime, sex, life, ageing, music and indeed any subject under the sun. These ruminations are expanded upon by the rest of the series cast, including his lover ann rea (the lower cases are her own invention) ,his subordinates and the suspects he encounters in the course of the book. The outlook which is enjoined is one of a kind of reactionary hippydom. This may sound a contradiction in terms but reactionary attitudes to the justice and legal system are combined with various enlightened positions as far as ‘life’ is concerned which attempt to reconcile these seeming opposites.

The sociological reach of the book is extremely limited – certain small circles in Camden basically. There is a certain striving for modernity, for ‘cool’, which always jars somewhat with me; too many house conversions featuring large open spaces, too much discussion of music. Perhaps I am an inverse snob in such matters but the lifestyle and concerns of the book never grabbed my attention. As always however this would be a matter of secondary concern if the plotting was strong but this resolves itself into the elimination of suspects. The dramatic conclusion feels contrived and forced. While not a bad book THE BEAUTIFUL SOUND OF SILENCE is likely to appeal only to those with a strong interest in what might be described as the ‘Camden lifestyle’.