First Fix Your Alibi by Bill James (Crème de la Crime, 2016) is the 33rd book in the British police procedural series featuring Assistant Chief Constable Desmond Iles and his sidekick Detective Chief Superintendent Colin Harpur.
Mansel Shales and Ralph Ember have each established highly profitable illicit drug empires and, to maintain the status quo, they observe each other’s trading space with the appearance of great collegiality. ACC Iles has let them know that he will look the other way while they carry out their illegal trade as long as no violence accompanies their businesses. However, someone is not playing according to the rules: the vehicle carrying the family of Shales is fired on as they are going to school, killing his wife and son. The gunman is killed later before the name of the person who gave him his instructions can be determined. Shales thinks he knows who did and he suggests to Ember that Ember kill the putative traitor in Shales’ organization, a la Strangers on a Train. Shales promises to return the favor whenever Ember has someone who needs to be removed.
Ember is taken aback, as he feels he has moved on from such thuggish practices and is trying hard to establish himself as a legitimate businessman. He is waffling about the murder when a rave takes place in an abandoned hotel, the organizations of Ember and Shales supplying the drugs. A young man is killed in a brawl there. Some think the culprit is obvious, others think a member of the drug-selling troupe contributed to the death, which brings Iles and Harpur hard into the drug barons’ business, as much for self-preservation as anything else. Not everyone in the police hierarchy agrees with Iles’ hands-off stance.
One would think that James would run out of ideas after 30+ books but this title is an astonishingly inventive spin on the traditional police investigation. The end was just as surprising as the rest of the book. Highly recommended. Booklist starred review.
· Hardcover: 192 Pages
· Publisher: Crème de la Crime; First World Publication edition (April 1, 2016)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 1780290829
· ISBN-13: 978-1780290829
Aubrey Hamilton ©2019
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.