Unsettled detective team – a body in the gardens

Nighthawking by Russ Thomas is set in Sheffield which I liked as I know the city well. It is the second in a series which was a bit of a problem because I didn’t know what had happened in the first book and that affected the interplay between the detectives – they seemed to be carrying resentment against each other and experiencing the aftereffects of trauma but we were never given the details. This didn’t affect the overall plot but it did mean that some of the interactions between the detectives weren’t obvious and it prevented me engaging with them as much as I think that I would have had I known the past history.

The story revolves around the discovery of a body, buried in the Botanical Gardens. This soon becomes linked to a group of metal detectorists, or nighthawkers, some of whom have made a valuable discovery. I very much enjoyed this plot. I thought it was well done and I liked the way in which each detectorist had their own story. There are lots of different points of view which I thought added to the enjoyment. The plot was well resolved with a satisfying ending which I had not anticipated – the author knows how to scatter red herrings widely in his story.

The main detective, Adam Tyler, has had a father in the police force who apparently died by suicide. An old colleague doubts that this is what happened and Adam becomes involved in trying to find out what happened in the past. This is not resolved in this book so I must assume that it will be a theme in a sequel. There was also some issue with an estranged brother which, again, I didn’t know enough about and which wasn’t concluded.

The detectives and the police force in this book don’t come out of the story well. It is good that they appear to have only one case to solve but Adam and another detective keep going missing to pursue their own business, they are all very rude to one another and there seems to be a lot of sexism and racism. The head of the department seems to hate Adam and to want to close down the case and make the team redundant. There is a lot of tension and accusations of corruption with the book ending in such a way that you know that this will be followed up in a subsequent novel.

This is obviously a book where I should have read the series in order (the first book is called Firewatching) because I felt that I was missing out on a lot of background information and I didn’t always understand the interaction or the characters’ motivation. The crime story at the heart of this novel was well done, however, and I think I would like to read more by this author.

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