Malice in Londonby Graham Thomas
When a murder victim is discovered in the murky waters of the River Thames, Erskine Powell of Scotland Yard plunges into the most diabolical case of his distinguished career. A second brutal slaying draws Powell even deeper into a tangled web of greed, deception,
DETECTIVE-CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT ERSKINE POWELL RETURNS--INVESTIGATING MALICE IN HIS OWN BACKYARD.
When a murder victim is discovered in the murky waters of the River Thames, Erskine Powell of Scotland Yard plunges into the most diabolical case of his distinguished career. A second brutal slaying draws Powell even deeper into a tangled web of greed, deception, and blackmail. From Tower Bridge to Soho, from Mayfair to Bloomsbury, Powell throws a dragnet across London, racing against time to link two savage crimes--and stop a cold-blooded killer dead in his tracks. . . .
From the Paperback edition.
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The river looked like tar, sludging along, full of filth, she fancied as she hurried along the quay. She was searching for her dog, Hamish, a terrier of indeterminate lineage who had a predilection for the well-bred cats that infested the Bermondsey docks these days. It was a raw night in March and the damp in the air was palpable, a thick congealing mist that seeped through the fabric of her raincoat into her aching joints. She paused to catch her breath, gathering her collar tightly around her in a vain attempt to keep out the chill.
She glanced nervously about. There was not another soul in sight. Behind her loomed the gothic silhouette of Tower Bridge, its presence more felt than seen in the fog. Up ahead she could see the reassuring glow of the row of shops and restaurants below a block of converted warehouse flats. She scolded herself for being so nervy. Nowadays you were unlikely to encounter anybody more sinister than a stockbroker on the docks and, besides, who would be interested in bothering an old woman? Still, she thought, she had better collect her dog and get home before she caught her death.
"Haaamish!" she called out in a quavering voice. There was no response, so she continued on her way, her footsteps sounding hollowly on the pavement. She picked up her pace slightly as she passed a dark, boarded-off construction site. Eventually, she found herself in front of a derelict warehouse, one of the few remaining vestiges of the Thames's commercial past that had not yet succumbed to the property developers. Just ahead was St. Saviour's Dock, a narrow tidal inlet off the river. The channel was crossed by a footbridge and was lined on the far side by smart flats with pink and blue balconies. She shivered convulsively. At that moment she wanted nothing more than to cross over the footbridge and nip back home to put the kettle on.
She looked up at the dripping brickwork of the old Butler's Wharf warehouse with its rusted iron doors and stairways and gaping black windows. Her Harry had worked on these docks after the war in the heyday when London was still the largest port in the world and thousands of ships of all types and sizes crowded the six-mile stretch of river downstream from the Tower, carrying exotic cargoes from the far-flung outposts of the Empire. There were times, particularly after a fresh rain, when she could smell the faint perfume of cinnamon and cloves that still permeated the timbers of the old buildings. She gave an involuntary sigh. Everything had changed in the Sixties when the container ships all moved to Tilbury and Harry went on the dole. Mustn't wallow in it, she told herself, but it was hard to accept the gentrification of her old neighborhood.
"Where is that naughty dog?" she said aloud, getting truly cross now. She'd give him a proper scolding when he came back. Maybe he'd chased a cat into the old warehouse--
Her train of thought was interrupted by a faint whimpering sound. "Hamish?" she called out doubtfully. She strained to listen, but all she could hear was the river lapping against the pilings and the sound of her own breathing. She frowned. Perhaps it had been a rat.
Without knowing why exactly, she walked over to the concrete parapet and peered over. An iron ladder descended to the river; the pitted was stained with streaks of rust. She stared into the black, oily water and shuddered. The Thames had supposedly been cleaned up to the point where even a few foolhardy fish had ventured back, but she reckoned it would still kill you if you fell in. She was about to turn away when she suddenly froze.
There was a commotion at the base of the ladder. She stared, uncomprehending, as a hand rose slowly from the water and grasped the bottom rung. Then a head appeared and another arm, fingers splayed, stretching toward her. She could see the face now, festooned with strands of hair like seaweed, its mouth contorted into a silent scream. Before she could react, the body slipped back and disappeared beneath the surface of the water like a half-remembered dream.
From the Paperback edition.
Meet the Author
Graham Thomas, a biologist by training, lives in British Columbia with his wife, their two children, and a Gordon setter named Laddie. He is the author of three previous mysteries featuring Detective-Chief Superintendent Powell: Malice in the Highlands, Malice in Cornwall, and Malice on the Moors.
From the Paperback edition.
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With the increasing popularity of slam-bam PI capers these days, those of us with a yen for the slower pace and more meticulous craftsmanship of good, old-fashioned police procedurals are frequently hard-put to satisfy our craving. That's why I see any new addition to Graham Thomas' wonderful 'Malice' series which features mercurial Chief-Inspector Erskine Powell, aided and abetted by intuitive Detective-Sergeant Saran Evans and plodding but determined D-S William Black, as genuine cause for celebration. Thomas never disappoints me, But MALICE IN LONDON has all of the features (intricate plotting, beautifully-realized characterizations, ie.) which I have enjoyed so very much in his/her earlier novels and something more. Quite frankly, it's my favorite to date because its London setting added so immeasurably to the pleasure of the chase for me. While a vivid sense of place has marked all of Powell's previous investigations, revisiting some of my own favorite haunts in his company added a kind of personal relevancy to the storyline that kept me happily engrossed from beginning to end. One of the things that I thoroughly enjoy about this series is watching the way characters whom I've come to know and care about evolve and change as the novels progress. This particular case has Powell, Evans and Black involved in what would seem to be two very diverse if equally sensational murders: a charismatic politician has been hit over the head and thrown into the Thames to drown; shortly thereafter, a much-despised restaurant critic is found blugeoned with his throat cut and an apple in his mouth in a Soho alley. Essentially thwarted in taking full charge of these high-profile cases by his arch-enemy Assistant Commissioner Merriman, Powell is forced to rely heavily on his two associates to get the job done, and we get to see them in a slightly different light. When all of their combined talents uncover a link between the two men through a mutual involvement in a proposed gentrification development in London's dockyard area, the plot really does thicken as that politically controversial project speedily provides both an interesting variety of suspects and a motive for murder whose validity Powell is eventually forced to test at the risk of his own life. While I usually don't mind pseudonym, I can't help wishing that I knew where else to look for Mr/Ms Thomas' work because I am enjoying the Erskine Powell novels so very much.
New Scotland Yard¿s Detective-Chief Superintendent Erskine Powell feels lonely with his wife on a one-year sabbatical in Canada and their two sons attending an overseas university. To pass the time, Erskine wants to get involved in a juicy investigation. However, his superior and nemesis Sir Henry Merriman assigns to a less than thrilled Erskine the month old case involving the murder of Richard Brighton, a Southwark politician. The corpse was found floating in the Thames with his head bashed to a pulp. The local police have no viable suspect. Erskine thinks this case is a dead end loser. He feels he received the assignment as a form of punishment and his boss is retaliating because Erskine did not support Sir Henry when he tried to become the new commissioner. Although feeling hopeless from the onset, Erskine begins his inquiries into who murdered Richard. Anyone who enjoys a well-written British police procedural will want to read MALICE IN LONDON (as well as the previous three ¿Malice¿ tales). The story line captures the essence and atmosphere of London in a way not often seen in a mystery. The likable protagonist is an ordinary person feeling a bit lonely in a pre empty nest syndrome sort of way. The secondary charcaters play a major role in the investigation, which, in turn, allows the audience to feel as if they too are involved in the investigation. Some cast members return from the well-designed previous novels and that provides a sense of homecoming to fans of the series. Those who demand a first class reading experience must purchase Mr. Thomas¿s latest mystery. Harriet Klausner