Alex Pine is one of the pseudonyms of British journalist James Raven, who also writes crime fiction under his own name and the names Jaime Raven, JP Carter, and Ali Blood. As Alex Pine, he’s written three books about Detective Inspector James Walker, who moved from London to a village in Cumbria to escape the vengeance of a career criminal that Walker had put behind bars.
The second book in the series The Killer in the Snow (Avon, 2022) finds Walker returning to work after his second Boxing Day in his new home. What he expected to be a slow week kicked off with the discovery of three bodies on a remote farm in the county. Robert and Mary Bateman and their daughter Charlotte were found dead; Charlotte had been stabbed and her parents shot sometime on Christmas Eve. The Batemans were in financial difficulty, as many small farmers in the region were, but Robert had unfortunately taken up gambling, which stressed their finances even more.
Initially Walker suspected that someone decided to collect on gambling debts the old-fashioned way but then his attention was turned to Charlotte’s associates, who were known drug users. The fact that the previous owners of the farm had been killed on-site 20 years previously crops up often, as Walker and his colleagues repeatedly wonder what it is about the farm to attract so much violence. The news from a London colleague that the crime boss Walker had moved north to avoid was out of prison and suspected of another killing adds a layer of worry and distraction to Walker’s days.
This is a whale of a story, with plenty of suspects and just as many surprises. It’s obvious the author is a former journalist, as the writing focuses on the facts and the action without much attention to the setting and similar intangibles. Walker talks about the beauty of the countryside but the glowing description of the area that I’ve seen from other writers such as E.C.R. Lorac is missing. In addition, a strong edit would have reduced page count and tightened the action, making it all move faster. Unfortunately the book drags in a few places.
Despite Pine’s literary shortcomings, he can certainly plot a mystery. The misdirection and cases for possible culprits are well structured as is the reveal of the perpetrator. The motive was suggested more than once but I read past it. I see why this book is rated so highly by Amazon readers. A good read for the winter holidays.
· Publisher: Avon (February 1, 2022)
· Language: English
· Paperback: 400 pages
· ISBN-10: 0008453381
· ISBN-13: 978-0008453381
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2022
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.