The Norwich Murders by John Reid, a fascinating mixture of murder investigations, international crime syndicates, and political corruption in high places.
I’m a latecomer to the DCI Burt series, having just finished The Norwich Murders, the sixth in the series by John Reid. The book was offered to me some time ago but somehow it fell through the cracks and I temporarily forgot I had it and just got in to it this month. There is much I liked about this novel and there is a lot going on here. It begins with a simple murder, like any proper British crime fiction novel, but quickly becomes a fascinating mixture of murder investigations, international crime syndicates, and political corruption in high places. John Reid offers here one of the most expansive, intricate, and imaginative crime fiction plots I’ve read in a long while and I’m only sorry I didn’t get to this novel sooner. It’s a cracking good read, especially for those of us who enjoy reading proper British crime mysteries and thrillers.
From the publisher…
What connection is there between two police officers who are savagely beaten to death in East Anglia and the headless body of a young woman, found washed up in the Thames?
DCI Burt must travel to Norfolk and work with the Norwich police force to assist them with their investigations. The Commander, Alfie Brooks, has purposefully arranged this so that DCI Burt can experience the area and meet Callum Robertson, the Deputy Chief Constable of the Norfolk Constabulary.
DCI Burt and his Special Resolutions team soon find they have another challenging mystery to solve, this time with connections to the ancient and revered La Cosa Nostra and modern-day drug running and prostitution rings in the UK and Europe. But if the various strings involved in the cases have any connection, what and where is it?
On the personal front, DCI Burt is made an offer he finds difficult to refuse but which would mean a huge upheaval in his domestic situation. What will he do about that?
DCI Steve Burt runs Special Resolutions, an elite unit in the Metropolitan Police Force that specializes in investigating serious crime cases other units either can’t or don’t want to handle. The Special Resolutions Unit is something of a dumping ground for the Met’s most troublesome cases. Just when his commander hands Burt and his team an unsolved headless body murder case with few leads, someone murders DC Elsie Brown, a female detective in Norwich on the verge of retirement. When the Norwich police can’t make any headway on the case, Burt and the Special Resolutions Unit get handed that case too. Complicating things is Burt’s commander has put his name forward for a promotion to the Chief Superintendent’s job and head of CID at the Norwich Constabulary. So, besides taking on some difficult murder cases, Burt faces deciding about accepting the promotion, which entails moving himself and his family from London to Norwich. And his wife Alison, who has a thriving medical practice in London, isn’t immediately keen on the idea of moving.
While his team works on the headless body case in London, Burt and one of his top investigators, Matt Conway, head to Norwich to investigate Brown’s murder. They hardly get started on the case before another murder happens, this time a retired Norwich supervising detective Elsie Brown once worked for. Burt and Conway begin to suspect the murders are related and have something to do with a seven-year-old murder case that had long gone cold but that Elsie Brown had kept working on, unable to let it go.
The story moves back and forth between Burt’s murder investigations and the fortunes of two notorious London drug dealers, the brothers Andrew and David Black. They are forging an agreement with an Amsterdam-based drug kingpin that promises to propel the Black brothers to the top of the criminal heap in London drug and prostitution scene. As the story continues, an intersection develops between the illicit activities of the Black brothers and the murders that Burt and his Special Resolutions squad are investigating. The investigations become more and more complex and what began as two straightforward murder investigations grow more heads than Medusa.
I really like the Steve Burt character, a hard charging and logical thinking police investigator with excellent deductive skills who expertly guides his team towards solutions to some ever more complicated investigations. Burt’s family background and his struggle to decide whether to accept the offered promotion that Reid seasons the story with help develop Burt into a compelling, realistic, and multi-faceted character. But beyond DCI Burt, Reid gives us a host of other interesting, believable, and sometimes flamboyant characters. Two of my other favorite characters were Inspector Terry Harvey, an eccentric technical expert that often aids the efforts of Burt’s team and Burt’s admin assistant, Amelia “Poppy” Cooper, who is a competent police office but with a flair for dressing provocatively.
On balance, The Norwich Murders is a cracking good read sure to be enjoyed by fans of proper British crime mysteries and thrillers. Reid does fine work ratcheting the suspense as the story advances toward the satisfying conclusion, making it difficult to put the book down because you can’t wait to learn what happens next. I look forward to reading more of DCI Burt’s future adventures and catching up with some of those that came before this sixth book in the series.