Review: Plain Dead – DI Henry Ford #3 (Andy Maslen)

DI Henry Ford is called to an army base where private Rachel Hadley has apparently slit her own throat, committing suicide. That’s the view of the army, anyhow. Ford thinks not, and throws himself into an investigation with a deadline: Hadley’s unit is shipping out to Somalia before month end. Is it really suicide? Perhaps a lover’s quarrel gone wrong?

So we have a ticking clock, and several unbelievable things.

First, Charlie, the army SIB officer who is the liaison between the civilian police Ford represents and the army. Let’s just toss in every other soldier who looks at the scene, up to and including Hadley’s father, who is a colonel, and also in charge of her unit. Anyone who knows anything about human anatomy – and especially anyone who has been involved in a war, as the colonel will assuredly have been by now – can tell this is not a suicide. People bleed. A ton. Even minor papercuts can bring out an amount of blood that looks a bit scary. But the army people tromping all over the scene don’t seem to notice that there’s very little blood by the body – and ergo, that it is not the scene where this happened, and Hadley has been posed there, knife in hand.

Speaking of falling down on the job: Ford does not order, nor does CSI think of, apparently, a search of several outbuildings that are near where Hadley is sitting. It strains suspension of disbelief that neither would have a light bulb moment about the lack of blood, look around, and say, “Gee, maybe we should have a look over there.” The blame for this is placed on a live-fire exercise due to take place in just a few hours that cannot be canceled, which also strains credulity. Of course it can. Exercises and patrols and invasions are cancelled all the time for various reasons, and a dead body on a live fire field could certainly be one of those cases.

Once the investigation gets moving, it reads like a script from NCIS. Coroner: check. Forensics: check. And so on. It isn’t lightning the world on fire, but most investigations are not exciting – they’re fairly tedious, truth be told.

It doesn’t take much to pick out the villain in this. I was disappointed that with all the representation going on that no one picked up on the name of a book found in Hadley’s room on the base – and that unless it’s a very old, used copy, the author’s pen name would not be on the cover, not now. The author’s real name would be. Even without that, nobody can pop on to Amazon and read a description of the book? Or, is that yet another thing they didn’t think of?

It sounds like I hated the book, but I didn’t. It’s an easy read. There’s a good camaraderie between Ford and his team, although not so much Ford and his superiors, one of whom he actually cusses out. Ford’s immediate boss is more forgiving, and a lot more likeable. I really liked Hannah, the forensics expert and “walking wikipedia”, who clearly has Aspberger’s Syndrome. I’d be willing to read anything where she was the lead.

Overall: a solid three out of five star read. It moves along, and there are some good moments between Ford and his son, Sam.

Thanks to Amazon UK/Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for the reading copy.

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