November 2016

‘Only The Dead’ by Malcolm Hollingdrake

ONLY THE DEAD: the first part in an explosive new crime series

Meet DCI Cyril Bennett, a man with a passion for manners and efficiency, as well as an eye for the ladies. His partner, DS David Owen, is naïve and untidy but keen. Together they make a formidable pair.

When the discovery of two infants’ bodies is made at a Teacher Training College, Bennett and Owen are given the case. Soon a number of suspects are identified.

At the same time, a killer is on the loose staging attacks using sulphur mustard.

Is there a link between the infants’ bodies and the sulphur mustard attacks? 

Do the answers lie in the past or the present?

Bennett and Owen must work together to bring to justice a killer with revenge on his mind.

This is the first time I have read anything by this author but I can tell you now that it definitely won’t be the last.  This really is a thought provoking and traumatic book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.

DCI Bennett and DS Owen have two cases on their desks so to speak.  The bodies of two children are unearthed and Bennett and Owen must get to the bottom of a case going back years.  At the same time certain people are attacked with ‘Mustard Gas’ and the two detectives have to get to the bottom of who, where, how, why and when etc.  At first it is unclear as to whether or not the cases are linked.

Now I don’t really want to go too much into the storyline as I don’t wish to spoil it for anyone.  When I realized the motivation behind one of the crimes, there was a part of me that understood why the perpetrator was doing what he or she was doing and whilst, not condoning it I could not absolutely condemn the perpetrator.  The only teaser regarding this book, I will give you is the fact that safeguarding vulnerable adults and children form a large part of the plot.  (I used to work in safeguarding vulnerable adults and children, which is why I faced such a moral dilemma about the perpetrator’s actions).

‘Only The Dead’ is really well written.  The author really does capture your attention right from the beginning and he is very skilled in conveying a tense, terrifying and dramatic atmosphere that really does make you shudder.  I felt as though I was right there with the officers investigating both cases and at times I did want to chip into the discussion with my own thoughts.  I know it’s fiction but I have a vivid imagination and if a book grabs me then I tend to get far too involved.

The locations used in this book really did appeal to me as well.  I live in the North East of England, so I recognized most of the places that featured in the book.  At times I felt as though I was working for the North Yorkshire Tourist Board as every time I came across a familiar place name I said ‘I’ve been there, I know where it is’.  It is so refreshing to see a book located in places outside of the usual London, Manchester and Birmingham scenarios.  I really did get a sense of the layout and character of places such as Harrogate and Ripon.  I need to go to Ripon to research my family tree so it will be nice to physically familiarize myself with that particular city.

Characterwise, I loved the characters of DCI Bennett and DS Owen.  DCI Bennett is rather self conscious as he has been diagnosed as having Bells Palsy and when he drinks anything he tends to dribble and his affected eye is always open.  Bennett does have an eye for the ladies but he isn’t altogether successful in that area of his life.  Bennett works really well with Owen.  In fact they seem like an old married couple at times.  Owen is naïve but he is keen and does all he can to resolve a case.  Bennett and Owen really get their teeth into both cases and they are like dogs with a bone in that they are not easily dissuaded from a particular course of action and they both have a determination to solve the case and bring the perpetrators to justice.  The villains of this book are suitably creepy and as I said before, they really do make you shudder.  I liken the villains to a Jekyll and Hyde scenario in that they present one face in public but they show a different persona in private.  The ease with which they can switch personalities is truly frightening.

In short I really LOVED this book and I would definitely recommend it to others.  Malcolm Hollingdrake is now one of my favourite authors and I eagerly await his next book.  I award this book 5* out of 5* but I would rate it higher if I could.

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