FELL PURPOSE by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles – review

August 25, 2010

The twelfth book in the Bill Slider series finds the Detective Inspector and his team from the Shepherd’s Bush police station investigating the murder of a young girl, not quite seventeen years old, strangled with a pair of women’s tights. There is no evidence of rape, but the crime is quite awful enough – Slider’s own daughter is nearing that same age, and he can’t help but relate to the horror her parents must now face.

When the parents are interviewed, an interesting scenario is presented: The mother wanted nothing more than for her daughter to attend the ‘right’ school and make a ‘good’ marriage, whereas the father wanted to keep her in a regimented lifestyle which would not expose her to the superficial and boy-crazed delights of her friends. She was a beautiful and apparently talented and brilliant young woman. But was she as innocent as her parents were convinced she was? The investigation ultimately turns up at least three viable suspects, but getting inside the head of this enigmatic victim to identify the man who killed her is not easily done.

The cops on Slider’s team are, as always, wonderfully drawn characters, and I smiled when Superintendent Porson made his appearance, he of the mixed metaphors and endearing malapropisms, of whom the author says: “In his headlong and tempestuous battle with crime, and with life in general, Porson’s way was to fling whatever words came first to hand in the general direction of meaning, and hope some of them stuck.” Others are described as follows: One cop’s coat “was so vast and long it looked as if it was taking him for a walk rather than vice versa. His massive and strangely bumpy bald head shone in the muted sunlight, a beacon of hope and a symbol of courage in adversity.” Of another: “He was tall, and so thin he had to run around in the shower to get wet . . . People trusted him and told him things they wouldn’t tell someone who looked more like a paid-up member of the human race,” and interviews a woman “who was so dense that light bent around her.” Yet another is described as “so slow, you should have your own time zone.”

Despite the horrendous nature of the crime at the center of it, the book is nevertheless a pleasure to read. The author’s descriptions of even the smallest scenes are letter-perfect, bringing them to life for the reader. It is another wonderful novel by Ms. Harrod-Eagles, and is highly recommended.

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Gloria Feit

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