by Tony Black
Detective Inspector (DI) Bob Valentine has more in common with murder victims than most cops: he was stabbed bringing a criminal to justice and officially died twice on the operating table.
He’s parked in a job at the Police Academy as he recovers. But first one grisly murder and then a second force his bulldog of a boss to bring him back.
Chief Superintendent Marion Martin, has more than a few reservations about his fitness for duty, but she’s desperate. She’s understaffed and may lose the case to the Glasgow murder detectives if she doesn’t move ahead on the two murders.
In both cases, the victims were hit on the back of the head and then impaled on a piece of wood. One, a banker with a clean record, was found at the Ayrshire landfill. The other, a known pedophile, was found at the racetrack. There are no clues. The media is howling for information and results.
The staff Valentine has to work with is green, dim or bent. One detective (with gambling debts) is selling information to a particularly disreputable reporter. Valentine’s wife is angry that after nearly losing him, he’s racing back into long, stressful days. His teenage daughters have little time for him. His father is grumpy, has health problems and probably shouldn’t be living alone anymore.
At night, he has haunting dreams about an angelic, little blonde girl who reminds him of his own daughters. The only bright spot in his two investigations is Detective Sergeant (DS) Sylvia McCormack, borrowed from Glasgow by CS Martin. She turns out to not only be a dedicated worker, she doesn’t believe that Valentine’s dreams, visions and hunches are unreasonable.
This is a gritty police procedural with an appealing main character. While the crimes and their resolution stretch credibility at points, it’s easy to believe in Valentine. The challenges of his personal life — from his chest pains to his angry wife to his stubborn father to his weak staff and nagging, unsupportive boss — are spot on. You almost feel like you need a stiff drink after every scene with his boss.
If you don’t like grisly, shocking crimes, don’t read this book. The murders are gory. For that reason, as well as some of the credibility issues, I’m unlikely to read the other books in the series.
ARTIFACTS OF THE DEAD is the first of the DI Bob Valentine series. It was followed by A TASTE OF ASHES and SUMMING THE DEAD.