Tom Mondrian is the last person you want on your case. And the only one who can solve it, in this quirky psychological thriller.
Tom Mondrian is watching his life ebb away directing traffic as a PCSO, until a bullet to the brain changes everything. With a new unusual perspective, including an inability to recognise faces and absolutely no filter between what he thinks and what he says, Tom’s career is suddenly shifting gear.
Tom’s new condition gives him an advantage over other police officers, allowing him to notice details that they can’t see. Now, with his new insight and unwavering determination, Tom is intent on saving three missing girls, before more start to disappear…
Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 January 2018 from HQ
Every now and then you come across a crime book that looks at life from a different angle. Head Case is one such book. I should say at the outset that it does require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, but if you can overcome that (and it isn’t hard) then what you have is a nice mixture of light and shade, a character with a sense of humour and a refreshing take on police procedurals.
Tom Mondrian, is a Police community support officer in Tottenham, London. He’s been living in the same house, in the same place all his life. An uneventful existence has been disrupted by the fact that his partner Anita has just left him for the Geography teacher at her school with whom she has been having an affair.
He is musing on this loss as he directs traffic on a freezing cold morning, nodding to those drivers he recognises, spotting the kids hanging about the street. Suddenly he feels very sick, there are flashing noises in his head and he is falling to the ground. He tries to call out, but the words that come out make no sense.
Because Tom Mondrian has been shot in the head. When he comes to, two days later, he is a changed man. The bullet has fragmented into three pieces, which remain lodged in his brain and deemed inoperable by surgeons. Though it poses no real danger to him, it will of course have a profound effect on his speech; his brain can’t yet transmit coherent speech to his mouth and he has completely lost his ability to recognise faces.
As he recuperates, he discovers that along with what he has lost, which turns out to include any sense of social niceties – he is now the plainest of plain speakers, blurting things out as he thinks of them – he has gained some interesting attributes. He sees things that others miss, as a result of his new found ability to acutely discern smells and his brain associates these with colours. He can see patterns where others simply can’t.
Inevitably, in this age of police PC correctness, Tom is welcomed back into his PCSO role and teamed with a new partner, Emre – a Turk. Tom’s superiors want to make the most of welcoming an injured man back into their midst, more to highlight the PR of inclusiveness to someone with a disability, rather than because of any sense of obligation.
And so the force’s idea is that Tom and Emre will do the PR/social side of policing; the school talk, the community policing PR initiatives, rather than any more serious work.
But that’s not what Tom wants. His new sense of self is such that he really wants to go out and get the bad guys and he drags along the long suffering Emre with him. It’s really an excellent partnership as Emre is calm and focussed and not a natural rule breaker. But Tom is now impulsive and driven and Emre can’t help but see that Tom could be on to something, if they can just pursue the clues without being found out by their superiors.
What makes this book work is this partnership. A really good pairing of opposites who despite themselves can’t help liking each other. Together they delve into the case, purloining evidence others have overlooked, trying to put it back without being caught and generally creating a certain amount of havoc as they go about their business.
I enjoyed the both this relationship and the nicely ironic sense of humour that pervades the book. There are some genuinely laugh out loud moments as well as an overall sense that this is a book which does not take its characters too seriously.
For its characters and its difference, this is a book I enjoyed. I will look out for what I hope will be the next in this new series.
About Ross Armstrong
Ross Armstrong is an actor and writer based in North London. He studied English Literature at Warwick University and acting at RADA. He’s performed on stage with the RSC in shows such as Oppenheimer in the West End and with the Donmar in Hamlet on Broadway, as well as numerous TV appearances including Foyles War, Jonathan Creek, Mr Selfridge, DCI Banks and the upcoming series of Ripper Street. His first novel, The Watcher, was published at the end of 2016.
You can follow Ross on @Rarmstrongbooks