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A.G. Barnett, AN OCCUPIED GRAVE

This is the first in a series of exceptional British police procedurals featuring Detective Sergeant Guy Poole and Detective Inspector Sam Brock working in he town of Bexford, England. Aside from catching criminals, both officers have burdens to bear. Poole’s father is a criminal whose activities years ago got Guy’s best childhood friend killed and Guy himself wounded, and now that the father is about to be released from prison, he wishes to reestablish a relationship with his reluctant son. Brock’s wife wants to have a baby, which he is decidedly ambivalent about, and as he becomes more attached to Poole, he becomes increasingly fearful of losing yet another sergeant in the line of duty.

The books in this series have a host of interesting characters, and complex plots that hold the readers interest to the end. There is also a nice dollop of humor to ease the stress of capturing the bad guys.

Chris Collett, DEADLY LIES

This is the first novel in a series of British police procedures featuring DI Tom Mariner. He and a small cadre of associates solve murders in the city of Birmingham. The plots are complex and often come to a surprising but satisfying conclusion. Mariner, who never knew his father and has a troubled relationship with his mother, is an interestingly complex character. Over the course of the series he comes to know more about his background, which forces him to change in fundamental ways. His background also makes it difficult for him to have satisfactory relationships with women. Sometimes the problems that arise from these relationships can be a tough slog for the reader, and I, for one, often feel that the relationship failures are as much the fault of the women as they are Mariner’s. A smart guy should make better choices.

This is a fine series that should be read in order so as to appreciate character development and avoid spoilers.

Janice Frost, DEAD SECRET

This is the first in a series of police procedural mysteries featuring Detectives Jim Neal and Ava Merry. They are set in the fictitious East Midlands cathedral city of Stromford. This first novel in the series is an investigation of the murder of a teenage girl.

These novels work well because Neal and Merry have very different personalities, but both are devoted detectives who over the course of the series become more drawn to each other. I’ve read the entire series so far, and found that the novels only get stronger as it goes along. Because there is a development arc, they should be read in order.

As a regular reader of this blog may have noticed, I have been focussing heavily as of late on British procedurals. This is because I feel that they frequently offer a good balance between action, suspense, and thoughtful detection. Also, although not completely lacking in violence – they are murder mysteries, after all – they do not rely on graphic violence or indiscriminate killing to hold the reader’s interest. If you agree that this is an enjoyable type of mystery, why don’t you let me know?

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