This is the single worst crime / detective ‘book’ I have ever read. By a country mile or three. If the author was deliberately aiming at producing clueless characters, dreadful dialogue and meaningless short stories then Chief Inspector Jewel Friedman would get six out of five stars. In a note at the beginning, the author describes the book as light-hearted detective stories which sometimes feature pretty heavy subject matter – more on this later.
Where to start? There are so many issues to evaluate. Let’s begin with the ‘characters’.There’s Jewel herself. She’s a Chief Inspector but thought Detective Inspector‘sounded cooler’. She cannot relate to people (despite being a detective who needs to have this skill) and makes sense of the world by investigating juicy murders. Jewel drives a broken-down police car – i.e. one that would more than likely fail safety inspections and therefore be illegal. It’s okay though because she later gets a new car as a reward for solving her 50th case – apparently as a result of her colleagues monitoring Jewel’s twitter feed.
Her boss the Superintendent is wet and weak. He simpers over Jewel and allows her to do whatever she wishes. In fact every single character is a cardboard cutout caricature that I cannot believe would exist in the real world, never mind the police force.
The five stories themselves are utterly ridiculous. In the first Lord Ryebread (sigh) is found shot to death in a locked room. It turns out the killer was flying a balloon past at the time and took her revenge. She also happens to be the butler’s daughter (the butler almost did it). Jewel figures all this out by analyzing a voicemail message left by the killer.
Her brilliance doesn’t end there - Jewel uses a nanoparticle tracking device embedded in lipstick to track a suspect she panics into running after having kissed him. Each sends out a GPS signal to make it easier to do so…I am honestly not making this up.
In another, a body is found impaled on The Shard, a very tall building in London. This is how the perpetrators acted:
They killed him earlier, cut out a beam shaped hole and disposed of the body at the top of the tallest building in London, making it seem like a burglary gone wrong.
The dead man is a thief who uses a helicopter to access buildings… Jewel guesses, by seeing a poster, that the killers are a Russian rock band. She confronts the artists when they’re on stage by asking them to play a song titled Body on the Roof by Jimmy and the Jetsets. They act suspiciously, confess all, and are arrested. Just like that.
Another kills and eats people. He just happens to be a friend she meets at the beginning of the piece in Hawaii where she is luckily on holiday. He has a Japanese father too – think that has no relevance? Largely you’re right, other than it seems to give them the desire to eat uncooked flesh.
The dialogue is awful. For example:
Oh, I am so glad you are here! So glad! It’s all so terrible! So terrible!
The major flaw in the stories is there’s no opportunity for the reader to work out the solution for themselves. Each time Jewel goes from murder to answer in a single previously unseen leap. Jewel also makes several serious mistakes. In one case a parcel delivery guy is present at the scene (he actually reports the crime) who she lets go without questioning because he claims he’ll be late on his rounds. This guy tries to create a belief that the suspect is actually a contortionist who he delivered in a crate. I cannot imagine a key witness being released without being questioned. Or anyone falling for or trying on the contortionist angle.
The writing is awful. For example:
The scene Jewel struggled to describe was particularly bloody. On the floor lay the body of a man in a large pool of blood.
To the‘pretty heavy subject matter’. At the end of the first story it’s alluded to that Jewel had a bad upbringing because she has a cat she confides in:
…her father had shown her the care she herself had never got from her own father who had been an abusive alcoholic, how today’s society was way too focused on sex and way too little on love…
The other is child abuse in the final case ‘Sockpuppetry’. A doctor and his mistress, Juliana, are abusing children. Uncle Wellington is found dead and he’s accused of being a child molester. In fact it is the doctor himself and he thinks he’s found a foolproof way of avoiding detection:
The idea of giving Juliana pancreatic cancer was Dr Pryce’s. It would ensure the police got off their tails by spinning the old “what’s the use of persecuting when the criminal is as good as dead” yarn.
Utterly tasteless. I actually sat through this (thankfully short) tale with my mouth open. I suspect ‘persecuting’ should read ‘prosecuting’ too.
Onto Uncle Wellington:
“…any idea why he was called Uncle Wellington?
" …he bore a striking resemblance to the Duke of Wellington…and he always wore wellies…sometimes he would re-enact the battle of Waterloo.”
Ludicrous from beginning to end.
Awful writing, dialogue, characters, everything.
Rating? One Stars
Would add this to my bookshelf? Not A Hope!
Originally reviewed for Books & Pals blog.