Love Story, With Murders: A Novel

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Overview

Harry Bingham’s Talking to the Dead introduced readers to one of the most compelling new heroines in crime fiction, Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, earning comparisons to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. Now D.C. Griffiths returns to investigate a series of gruesome murders—and their connection to her own shadowy past.
 
D.C. Fiona Griffiths is facing the prospect of a dull weekend when the call comes in, something about illegal ...

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Love Story, With Murders: A Novel

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Overview

Harry Bingham’s Talking to the Dead introduced readers to one of the most compelling new heroines in crime fiction, Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, earning comparisons to Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. Now D.C. Griffiths returns to investigate a series of gruesome murders—and their connection to her own shadowy past.
 
D.C. Fiona Griffiths is facing the prospect of a dull weekend when the call comes in, something about illegal dumping in a Cardiff suburb. But when she arrives on the scene she finds, in a garage freezer, a severed human leg, complete with a pink suede high-heeled shoe.
 
South Wales police are able to ID the body part as that of a young woman who went missing five years earlier; a young woman who once made a living as an exotic dancer. All at once, Fiona’s job as a detective and her role as a loving daughter collide: Fiona’s father owns a Cardiff strip club and was once deeply involved in the local crime scene.
 
Still in recovery from a devastating psychotic breakdown, Fiona is wary of exploring a path that might end at her father’s door . . . yet her obsessive approach to criminal investigation leaves her no other option.
 
But Fiona’s specialty is not the living, it is the dead. And as she is just starting to get into the murdered girl’s head, a severed hand is found—and this one is male.
 
Soon, police are swamped with an increasing number of body parts found in and around suburban gardens, sheds, and garages. Media attention is intense, and investigators are working from a list of hundreds of persons of interest. When the department identifies the second victim, Fiona struggles to connect him with the dead stripper. What do the victims have in common? And why this macabre method of disposing the corpses?
 
The answers may be more than Fiona can handle. Because in order to solve the riddle of these hideous murders, D.C. Fiona Griffiths will have to delve into the mysteries of her past—and hope she comes out intact . . . and alive.

Praise for Love Story, with Murders
 
“A most intriguing, if peculiar, detective . . . Although his volatile protagonist certainly dominates the first-person narrative, [Harry] Bingham doesn’t stint on plot (very complicated), procedures (very detailed) or action (very brutal). . . . Satisfying.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
 
Love Story, with Murders is a dark delight, and I look forward to Fiona’s future struggles with criminals, her demons and the mysteries of her past.”The Washington Post

“Bingham’s superb second police procedural featuring Det. Constable Fiona Griffiths delivers an even more intense plot and richer character study than his first. . . . Fiona’s past mental problems and her unconventional personality make her a distinctive lead.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Some of the most memorably staccato narration in the genre . . . [Bingham’s] remote, unquenchable heroine makes her stand apart from every one of her procedural brothers and sisters.”Kirkus Reviews
 
“Compelling . . . [Love Story, with Murders] amply proves the freshness and flair that [Bingham] has brought to the police procedural. . . . Surprisingly delicate, it weaves a sinuous, seductive spell and confirms we have a new crime talent to treasure.”Daily Mail (UK)
 
Love Story, with Murders boasts what must be the most startling protagonist in modern crime fiction.”The Sunday Times (London)

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
Although his volatile protagonist certainly dominates the first-person narrative, Bingham doesn't stint on plot (very complicated), procedures (very detailed) or action (very brutal). There's also a satisfying dimension to secondary characters…
Publishers Weekly
★ 12/09/2013
Bingham’s superb second police procedural featuring Det. Constable Fiona Griffiths delivers an even more intense plot and richer character study than his first, 2012’s Talking to the Dead. Mary Langton, a university student who briefly worked as an exotic dancer, has been missing for years when her leg is found in a freezer at the home of a recently deceased elderly widow. Soon, more of the young woman’s body parts are discovered throughout a neighborhood in Cardiff, Wales. The case becomes even odder when the police find parts belonging to the recently murdered Ali el-Khalifi, a North African metallurgist and college lecturer. Fiona also tries to learn why as a toddler she was left in the car belonging to the couple who eventually adopted her. Back in the day, her adoptive father, now a legitimate businessman, had the reputation as Cardiff’s most talented—but unconvicted—criminal. Fiona’s past mental problems and her unconventional personality make her a distinctive lead. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
“A most intriguing, if peculiar, detective . . . Although his volatile protagonist certainly dominates the first-person narrative, [Harry] Bingham doesn’t stint on plot (very complicated), procedures (very detailed) or action (very brutal). . . . Satisfying.”—Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
 
Love Story, with Murders is a dark delight, and I look forward to Fiona’s future struggles with criminals, her demons and the mysteries of her past.”The Washington Post

“Bingham’s superb second police procedural featuring Det. Constable Fiona Griffiths delivers an even more intense plot and richer character study than his first. . . . Fiona’s past mental problems and her unconventional personality make her a distinctive lead.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Some of the most memorably staccato narration in the genre . . . [Bingham’s] remote, unquenchable heroine makes her stand apart from every one of her procedural brothers and sisters.”Kirkus Reviews
 
“Compelling . . . [Love Story, with Murders] amply proves the freshness and flair that [Bingham] has brought to the police procedural. Written with unexpected warmth and wry observation, it brings its gruesome story to life without turning the stomach. . . . Surprisingly delicate, it weaves a sinuous, seductive spell and confirms we have a new crime talent to treasure.”Daily Mail (UK)
 
Love Story, with Murders boasts what must be the most startling protagonist in modern crime fiction. . . . Brutal, freakish and totally original.”The Sunday Times (London)
 
“DC Fiona Griffiths . . . is ditsy, funny, stubborn and sharp. . . . Bingham provides a spirited Welsh response to the Scottish domination of British crime fiction.”The Times (London)
 
“Bingham’s wit and deft descriptions enhance his plots and fascinating, unusual characters.”Shelf Awareness

“They say there is nothing new under the sun. . . . I have to say that in a lifetime of reading crime fiction I have never come across anyone quite like Fiona Griffiths. . . . Read this book. Enjoy every syllable. Hold your breath, and tick off the weeks until the next one.”Crime Fiction Lover

Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-22
A pair of murders five years apart forms the basis of a fact-based sophomore case for DC Fiona Griffiths, of the South Wales CID, that's just as intense as her first (Talking to the Dead, 2012). Since Fiona is on hand to discover Mary Jane Langton's severed leg in the late Elsie Williams' chest freezer, she feels a special attachment to the victim, who disappeared in 2005. But her colleagues soon challenge her privileged position by turning up not only other sections of Mary's corpse (though it's reserved to Fiona to find her head), but, even more disturbingly, a hand and other body parts more recently associated with Ali el-Khalifi, a lecturer at the Cardiff School of Engineering whose expertise turns out to have connected him to a more sinister sideline. As everyone runs around trying to connect the two murders under Operation Abacus, which the cops promptly nickname Operation Stirfry, Fiona, shunted onto the Khalifi investigation by imperious, ill-tempered DI Rhiannon Watkins, is the only one to sense the more pressing connection between Khalifi's murder and the suicide of Mark Mortimer, who slit his wrist with a piece of a broken bottle after he was jailed as the most inept drug smuggler in Welsh history. In fact, it's Fiona, whose Cotard's syndrome prevents her from feeling all kinds of emotions and sometimes even sensing feelings in her own body, who has what it takes to close the case and deliver some of the most memorably staccato narration in the genre. Not as surprising or carefully structured as Bingham's striking debut, but his remote, unquenchable heroine makes her stand apart from every one of her procedural brothers and sisters.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345533760
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/18/2014
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 156,990
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Harry Bingham is an author and literary consultant who runs the U.K.’s largest literary consultancy firm, The Writers’ Workshop. He resides in Oxfordshire, where he is at work on the next novel in the Fiona Griffiths series.

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Read an Excerpt

1

Cardiff Prison. September 2010.

“Welcome.”

Penry opens his hands in what’s meant to be a spreading gesture, only they never get more than about eight inches apart. It’s as though the ghosts of his handcuffs are still there.

“Nice place,” I tell him.

Formica tables with metal legs. Overhead fluorescent lighting. No daylight. Official notices on the wall and a couple of prison guards watching everything. Seven hundred and eighty-five other prisoners, ninety-four of them lifers. Nice.

“Well, you know, I was going to repaint. Freshen things up a bit. But . . .” He shrugs. “You know how it is.”

“Will you manage it?”

The time, not the paintwork. The court handed down a four-year sentence, every minute of it deserved. I helped put Penry behind bars—Brian Penry, a bent ex-copper with a line in fraud and one or two worse things besides—and I shouldn’t like him, but I do.

“Four years, serve two. Yeah, I’ll manage.” His face goes through a few different expressions before settling on something blandly generic. “My first week here, a guy in the same wing as me kills himself. Piece of broken glass.” He makes a gesture along the inside of both wrists. “They only noticed when there was blood leaking out from the door. Fucking . . .” He shakes his head instead of finishing, but I get the drift. “Bugger was only in for eighteen months and didn’t even seem depressed, apparently.”

I remember the story, but vaguely, the way you do when it concerns something on the inside. What I do remember well was the arrest. A young father. Worked for a precision engineering company. Nice lad, doing well. Busted for trying to import cocaine from southern Spain in a shipment of steel tubing. Loses job, loses wife, loses kids, goes to jail. Life over.

“You’ll be okay, Brian,” I tell him.

“Yeah. Yeah, once I get the place freshened up, eh?”

We talk for another thirty minutes and it feels like a century. When I leave the building, I find I’m almost running.

2

Cardiff. Late October 2010.

It’s a Friday afternoon. October in Wales, but you wouldn’t think so. High clouds scudding in from the west and plenty of sunshine. The last shreds of summer and never mind the falling leaves.

I’m in a patrol car with a P.C. Adrian Condon, on the way back from a wasted five hours going house-to-house in Rumney. We’d been trying to find anyone who could tell us about a street fight that injured one female bystander and two men, one of whom is in hospital with a fractured skull. We’d got nothing useful, but hadn’t expected to. Our bosses hadn’t expected us to. It was one of those box-ticking things. You do it because you have to.

We’re in end-of-shift mode, talking shop, thinking about the weekend, when Condon’s radio squawks. Incident called in in Cyncoed. Something to do with illegal rubbish found during a house clearance. Condon looks at me. We could duck this one or we could be good little soldiers. I shrug. I don’t care. Illegal rubbish in Cyncoed, what I came into policing for.

Condon shrugs as well. He’s already swinging the car around as I reach for the radio.

The dispatcher gives us an address on the Rhyd-y-penau Road, up by the reservoir. Not the sort of address that generally gives us trouble. It’s a place of clipped privet, tidy front gardens, and net curtains. Cottages and china dogs.

We’re there in ten minutes. A big blue van, doors banging open in the wind, marks the target. Condon whirls the car into the vacant scrap of driveway, parks under a bare-branched cherry tree.

We get out. Condon’s in uniform and I’m not, and he’s a man, which I’m not. So although I’m technically the senior officer, it’s him the moving guys defer to as they pull off their gloves and shake hands with those big masculine grips.

I don’t care, just stand back and watch the clouds scud. Illegal rubbish. How tough can the assignment be? I hear fragments only. Cottage belonged to an old lady, died two months back, next of kin in Australia. Blah blah. The blue van is piled with old-lady furniture. Curved mahogany legs, green velour trim. Beige cushions with pale gold tassels. I can’t see more because of the van door, still banging in the wind.

Condon moves off toward the garage with the moving guys. I follow. The garage door is raised and there’s a skip in front of it, half full. Old garden junk, gummed-up paint buckets, bristleless brooms, a spidery foldout deck chair. Inside, the garage is half cleared, half full.

Teak garden furniture. The sort that’s good enough you store it indoors over winter and in bad weather. Take outside when it’s warm.

And there’s a chest freezer. Capacious. As big as two bathtubs. The sort of thing that nice little old ladies who live with their net curtains and china dogs up by the Llanishen Reservoir fill with stewed apple compotes in autumn and bits of lamb when it’s on sale at the local butcher. Of course, there hasn’t been any power here for a month or two, so the packaged lamb and stewed apples aren’t as good as they were. A wheelie bin, stinking, holds the first layer of bags excavated from the freezer. A pile of plastic wrapped packages lies on the ground, the grayish-yellow color of meat turned bad and condensation dripping from the inside of each bag.

That’s not what catches the eye, though. What catches the eye lies in front of the lamb and the pork belly on the concrete floor. A polythene bag more than a yard long. More meat turning bad. The same yellowy gray. Same condensation, same smell. Only this meat looks a hell of a lot like a human leg. That, plus it’s wearing a high-heeled shoe.

Condon sees it a moment before I do and, like a good copper, he knows he needs to puke outside. Keep the crime scene tidy. Me, I don’t puke at corpses. As Condon is decorating the flower bed, I approach the bag, feeling the flesh through the thick polythene. It feels like old, cold steak. I squat down by the dead girl, keeping her company, letting the peace flow out of the bag and into me.

Condon and the moving crew are silhouettes in the garage doorway. With my hand still on the girl’s thigh, I call the office. Rhiannon Watkins, the only D.I. I know to be on duty. I give her the gist. Condon will probably be getting something going with the dispatcher too, but this will be a CID case from here on. A sweet little murder. I feel a deep sigh of relaxation pass through me. Of pleasure. I didn’t have much planned for the weekend. And whatever there might have been, this will be better.

I give the thigh a last, long affectionate squeeze and stand up so I can see down into the depths of the freezer. I’m expecting more of the same. Arms, head, the other leg. Chunks of torso sawn up and stored. But there’s nothing. Squidgy apple puree. Bags of beans, unusable now. A few Tupperware containers with handwritten labels and dates, no longer legible in the dark and wet. Nothing that looks like body parts. Nothing that looks like the rest of this stinky jigsaw.

In the doorway to the garage, the moving guys are beginning to realize that they’re going to need to make different plans for the evening. We’re going to need statements from them. We’ll need their van, if it comes to that. It’s part of the crime scene now, a lorryload of evidence. In Cathays Park, the word will be spreading, shift patterns reallocated, people bundling into cars and blazing up here, lights flashing, sirens wailing.

I like all that, but I’m not ready for it yet. While Condon is still busy at the front, I walk through the garage door into the house itself. Get a feel of it before it’s invaded. The clocks haven’t been set back yet, so there’s still plenty of light. The house is more or less empty. A shag pile carpet in yellow and brown, dents where the furniture once stood. In the living room, a mantelpiece not yet cleared of photos.

Not many photos, probably because there isn’t much family. There’s a wedding photo, of the widow presumably and her late husband. He’s in an army uniform and the photo looks like it’s Second World War vintage. That makes the widow late eighties or early nineties, even if she was young when she married. A pretty bride, half-smiling, unsure whether to look at the camera or her new husband.

There are other photos besides this one. The same pair, older. With a baby. With a young daughter. With the same daughter as a teenager, then as a young woman, then as a bride herself—now the Australian next of kin, I imagine. The last photo of the widow’s husband shows him in his late forties, maybe fifties, with a cigarette in his hand. No evidence that he survived into his sixties even.

The shoe on the dead girl’s leg was pink suede, platform sole, skinny wedge heel, round toe, and an ankle strap. I’m hardly the world’s first authority on fashion, but the shoe looked to me neither brand-new nor ancient history. Christina Aguilera vintage, approximately.

I line up the photos with my thumbnail. Not much of a rogues’ gallery: an elderly widow, a dead husband, an Australian daughter. All that, and a murder victim who consists of only a leg and a Christina Aguilera taste in shoes.

I’m smiling like an idiot. Weekends don’t come any better.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 23, 2014

    This is my favorite new series. These books have what I look for

    This is my favorite new series. These books have what I look for: good, complex plots; interesting and likable characters; and good writing. I eagerly await more.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2014

    Keb

    Ill take te kill of ally

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2014

    Mascon

    Touch her and you die first.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2014

    Very enjoyable

    Very different, main character has major issues that are used to her advantage. Look forward to Fionas next adventures.

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