Source: Purchased copy
Publication: 1 Nov. 2018 from Wildfire
Undercover ops are always dangerous, but DC Constance Fairchild never expected things to go this wrong.
Returning to their base of operations, an anonymous office in a shabby neighbourhood, she finds the bloodied body of her boss, and friend, DI Pete Copperthwaite. He’s been executed – a single shot to the head.
In the aftermath, it seems someone in the Met is determined to make sure that blame for the wrecked operation falls squarely on Con’s shoulders. She is cut loose and cast out, angry and alone with her grief… right until the moment someone also tries to put a bullet through her head.
There’s no place to hide, and no time to cry.
I was lucky enough to pick up an early copy of this book at Bloody Scotland and to have it signed. A new series by a top class author is always a bit of a squee moment and I’m thrilled to say that D.C. Constance Fairchild does not disappoint.
Set in London with brief forays further north, our protagonist is thirty year old rebel Constance Fairchild. Hailing from a long lineage that I’m guessing dates back to the reformation, Constance (never, ever, Connie) has eschewed the considerable family nest and serious network of connections and now treads her own path as a lowly D.C. in London’s Met.
The story is told through Con’s eyes, in the first person and this lends it both immediacy and poignancy when she first realises what has happened. Her closest ally at work is D.I. Peter Copperthwaite who is both friend and mentor. They are working on an undercover operation to target middle scale organised criminals when Con, called to the operations hub by Pete, finds the door open and Pete shot dead by a single bullet to the brain.
She barely has time to phone it in before she finds herself the object of suspicion. Con is very quickly ostracized by her colleagues, put on suspension by her bosses and is pretty much hung out to dry without so much as an explanation. Professional Standards are called in to investigate and Con is left out in the cold with no-one to turn to. The suspicion is that she has set Pete up for a hit. And when she, too finds herself targeted in her own home, she knows she’s going to have to find out who has set her up, and why.
A not so chance meeting in her local pub with an old school friend, Charlotte de Villiers, turns out to be the reason Con needs to get herself out of London. Charlotte’s sister Izzy has gone missing and as Charlotte is now shacked up with Constance’s brother, Ben, Charlotte asks for Con’s help to find her sister.
Con’s off the books investigation takes her home to Newton Harston, where she stays with the one member of the family she does have time for, her father’s sister, Felicity. But even in Newton Harston she is not safe and when Felicity offers her use of her place in Scotland she takes off leaving a trail of chaos behind her, none of it of her making.
A trail of loose threads is spun together to make a fast and intriguing tale full of verve that goes from the rich and well-connected Edward de Villiers to the murder of a freelance journalist and the disappearance of Isobel de Villiers.
Con is going to have to use her considerable determination and courage to outwit those who are after her and find Izzy, but Oswald has created a bold, witty and courageous protagonist who is not afraid to take chances in pursuit of the truth.
There are some trademark Oswald touches here and there that made me smile, not least the visitor in the cottage in Scotland, but this is still a very different series to his Tony McLean books and its strength lies in the strong narrative arc that makes this book such a great read.
I really liked Con, and I can’t wait to find out what happens to her next. Oswald has left his options open, but whatever she does, I’ll be there, waiting to find out.
Verdict: A great start to a new series from a terrific storyteller.
About James Oswald
James Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries, as well as the new DC Constance Fairchild series. James’s first two books, NATURAL CAUSES and THE BOOK OF SOULS, were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. AS COLD AS THE GRAVE is the ninth book in the Inspector Mclean Series.
James farms Highland cows and Romney sheep by day, writes disturbing fiction by night.
Follow James Oswald on Twitter @SirBenfro
Visit the website here