Talking to the Dead

Talking to the Dead

by Harry Bingham


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A mesmerizing and thrilling novel—perfect for fans of Tana French and Stieg Larsson—that introduces a modern, unforgettable rookie cop whose past is as fascinating and as deadly as the crimes she investigates.
The Boston Globe • The Seattle Times

At first, the murder scene appears sad, but not unusual: a young woman undone by drugs and prostitution, her six-year-old daughter dead alongside her. But then detectives find a strange piece of evidence in the squalid house: the platinum credit card of a very wealthy—and long dead—steel tycoon. What is a heroin-addicted hooker doing with the credit card of a well-known and powerful man who died months ago? This is the question that the most junior member of the investigative team, Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths, is assigned to answer.
But D.C. Griffiths is no ordinary cop. She’s earned a reputation at police headquarters in Cardiff, Wales, for being odd, for not picking up on social cues, for being a little overintense. And there’s that gap in her past, the two-year hiatus that everyone assumes was a breakdown. But Fiona is a crack investigator, quick and intuitive. She is immediately drawn to the crime scene, and to the tragic face of the six-year-old girl, who she is certain has something to tell her . . . something that will break the case wide open.
Ignoring orders and protocol, Fiona begins to explore far beyond the rich man’s credit card and into the secrets of her seaside city. And when she uncovers another dead prostitute, Fiona knows that she’s only begun to scratch the surface of a dark world of crime and murder. But the deeper she digs, the more danger she risks—not just from criminals and killers but from her own past . . . and the abyss that threatens to pull her back at any time.

Praise for Talking to the Dead
“Gritty, compelling . . . a procedural unlike any other you are likely to read this year.”—USA Today
“With Detective Constable Fiona ‘Fi’ Griffiths, Harry Bingham . . . finds a sweet spot in crime fiction . . . think Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander . . . Denise Mina’s ‘Paddy’ Meehan [or] Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. . . . The writing is terrific.”—The Boston Globe
“The mystery-thriller genre is already so staffed with masterminds that it’s hard to make room for another. But along comes a book like Talking to the Dead, and suddenly an unadvertised opening is filled. . . . [This] has the feel of something fresh and compelling.”—New York Daily News
“A stunner with precision plotting, an unusual setting, and a deeply complex protagonist . . . We have the welcome promise of more books to come about Griffiths.”—The Seattle Times
“Recommended highly . . . [a] riveting procedural thriller.”—Library Journal (starred review)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345533739
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/25/2012
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.44(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Harry Bingham is an author and literary consultant who runs the U.K.’s largest literary consultancy firm, The Writers’ Workshop. He has been longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and shortlisted for the WH Smith Thumping Good Read Award for previous titles available in the U.K. He resides in Oxfordshire, where he is at work on the next novel in the Fiona Griffiths series.

Read an Excerpt


Interview. October 2006

Beyond the window, I can see three kites hanging in the air over Bute Park. One blue, one yellow, one pink. Their shapes are precise, as though stenciled. From this distance, I can’t see the lines that tether them, so when the kites move, it’s as though they’re doing so of their own accord. An all-­encompassing sunlight has swallowed depth and shadow.

I observe all this as I wait for D.C.I. Matthews to finish rearranging the documents on his desk. He shuffles the last file from the stack in front of him to a chair in front of the window. The office is still messy, but at least we can see each other now.

“There,” he says.

I smile.

He holds up a sheet of paper. The printed side is facing him, but against the light from the window I see the shape of my name at the top. I smile again, not because I feel like smiling but because I can’t think of anything sensible to say. This is an interview. My interviewer has my résumé. What does he want me to do? Applaud?

He puts the résumé down on the desk in the only empty patch available. He starts to read it through line by line, ticking off each section with his forefinger as he does so. Education. A levels. University. Interests. References.

His finger moves back to the center of the page. University.


I nod.

“Why are we all here, what’s it all about. That sort of thing?”

“Not really. More like, What exists? What doesn’t exist? How do we know whether it exists or not? Things like that.”

“Useful for police work.”

“Not really. I don’t think it’s useful for anything much, except maybe teaching us to think.”

Matthews is a big man. Not gym-­big, but Welsh-­big, with the sort of comfortable muscularity that suggests a past involving farmwork, rugby, and beer. He has remarkably pale eyes and thick dark hair. Even his fingers have little dark hairs running all the way to the final joints. He is the opposite of me.

“Do you think you have a realistic idea of what police work involves?”

I shrug. I don’t know. How are you supposed to know if you haven’t done it? I say the sort of thing that I think I’m supposed to say. I’m interested in law enforcement. I appreciate the value of a disciplined, methodical approach. Blah blah. Yadda yadda. Good little girl in her dark gray interview outfit saying all the things she’s supposed to say.

“You don’t think you might get bored?”

“Bored?” I laugh with relief. That’s what he was probing at. “Maybe. I hope so. I quite like a little boredom.” Then worried he might feel I was being arrogant—­prizewinning Cambridge philosopher sneers at stupid policeman—­I backtrack. “I mean, I like things orderly. I ’s dotted, T  ’s crossed. If that involves some routine work, then fine. I like it.”

His finger is still on the résumé, but it’s tracked up an inch or so. A levels. He just leaves his finger there, fixes those pale eyes on me, and says, “Do you have any questions for me?”

I know that’s what he’s meant to say at some stage, but we’ve got forty-­five minutes allocated for this interview and we’ve used only ten, most of which I’ve spent watching him shift stationery around his office. Because I’m taken by surprise—­and because I’m still a bit rubbish at these things—­I say the wrong thing.

“Questions? No.” There’s a short gap, in which he registers surprise and I feel like an idiot. “I mean, I want the job. I don’t have any questions about that.”

His turn to smile. A real one, not fake ones like mine.

“You do. You really do.” He makes that a statement not a question. For a D.C.I., he’s not very good at asking questions. I nod anyway.

“And you’d probably quite like it if I didn’t ask you about a two-­year gap in your résumé, around the time of your A levels.”

I nod again, more slowly. Yes, I would quite like it if you didn’t ask about that.

“Human Resources know what’s going on there, do they?”

“Yes. I’ve already been into that with them. I was ill. Then I got better.”

“Who at Human Resources?”

“Katie. Katie Andrews.”

“And the illness?”

I shrug. “I’m fine now.”

A non-­answer. I hope he doesn’t push further, and he doesn’t. Instead, he asks who’s interviewed me so far. The answer is pretty much everyone. This session with Matthews is the final hurdle.

“Okay. Your father knows you’re applying for this job?”


“He must be pleased.”

Another statement in place of a question. I don’t answer it.

Matthews examines my face intently. Maybe that’s his interview technique. Maybe he doesn’t ask his suspects any questions, he just makes statements and scrutinizes their faces in the wide-­open light from the big Cardiff sky.

“We’re going to offer you a job, you know that?”

“You are?”

“Of course we are. Coppers aren’t thick, but you’ve got more brains than anyone else in this building. You’re healthy. You don’t have a criminal record. You were ill for a time as a teenager, but you’re fine now. You want to work for us. Why wouldn’t we hire you?”

I could think of a couple of possible answers to that, but I don’t volunteer them. I’m suddenly aware of being intensely relieved, which scares me a bit, because I hadn’t been aware of having been anxious. I’m standing up. Matthews has stood up too and comes toward me, shaking my hand and saying something. His big shoulders block out my view of Bute Park and the kites. Matthews is talking about formalities and I’m blathering answers back at him, but my attention isn’t with any of that stuff. I’m going to be a policewoman. And just five years ago, I was dead.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“The mystery-thriller genre is already so staffed with masterminds that it’s hard to make room for yet another.  But along comes a book like Talking to the Dead, by Harry Bingham, and suddenly an unadvertised opening is filled….has the feel of something fresh and compelling.  The best thing coming out of this gem of a crime story is the promise of another.”  —Daily News

“The promising first installment in a new series, this book is so good it has you wondering who should play Fiona on the big screen.”  —Kirkus Reviews
“Fans of Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander will cotton to the heroine of British author Bingham’s highly entertaining U.S. debut….An insightful look at a damaged unusual woman trying to fit…enhance the brisk, realistic plot.”  —Publishers Weekly

Customer Reviews

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Talking to the Dead: A Novel 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The main character is very unusual yet you find yourself rooting for her throughout the book. Good police mystery with quite a bit of character development. Enjoyed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not worth the money. Didnt get good until pg 305 and it didnt last long. I would give it no stars if i could.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But the only thing that stopped me from reading were minor life crises and work, in that order. Recommed!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book, starts a little slow then takes off
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In imagining a colorful, fascinating character and placing her in wonderfully evocative Southern Wales, Bingham has delivered a page-turner reminiscent of Denise Mina, Elly Griffiths and Deborah Crombie. Fiona is heroic yet flawed; can't wait to see what happens next in her career and in her life.
Ronrose More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this story of first year Detective Constable Fiona Griffith of the South Wales Police Force. At barely over five feet tall she is not an imposing figure, but more than makes up for it in determination. She is not one to take readily to orders and often thinks outside the box. She does however want to keep her newly won position, so she is burying her head in financial figures trying to uncover the embezzlement trail of an ex-police officer. She finds some relief from this drudgery, when a double homicide is called in to the office. A prostitute and her young daughter have been brutally murdered. Fiona is assigned only a small part of the investigation. She finds herself drawn to the young girl whose skull has been crushed in and the mystery surrounding her death. Fiona is hiding her own mysteries. As a teenager she had a complete breakdown. For a long period of time she felt that she was dead. She was out of touch with reality and spent a lot of time under psychiatric care. Even now she has times when she is more comfortable around the dead than the living. Fiona must face her past as well as the dangerous threats of the present if she is going to find the murderer. This book provided for review by Delacorte Press.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Nothing else to say.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Great characters I wanted to know more about - with a wonderful mystery as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People are spying on us at are res so we need to move our res.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My husband and I enjoyed this book . I had a hard time putting it down. I liked the main character , Fi. I look forward to reading the next in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A struggle to read. A good idea but needed work. I gave it a 3 because it still kept me going back to it and wanting to read more but then I wouldn't keep with it. I liked the story and mostly the female detective.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please dont waste it on this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wanted to read something different than the usual detective novel. Love Fiona with all of her mental disconnects. Not the normal police detective. Good reading
MexicoDan More than 1 year ago
I am happy I discovered Mr. Bingham, and I hope he writes more books of this high caliber.
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Perhaps if this were billed as horror ... as it is, the crazy protagonist was too off-putting. I read for a while, hoping someone would kill her, but no such luck. Eventually I gave it up in disgust. What is the deal with so many female cops in modern mysteries being obnoxious and freaky? It doesn't exactly warm the cockles of my heart that this loonytune was evidently hired pretty much straight out of a nuthouse and without psychological testing. Just what you want enforcing the law. Not.