Monday, November 27, 2023

Aubrey Nye Hamilton Reviews: Blood Relations by Joyce Woollcott

Joyce Woollcott was born in Belfast in Northern Ireland and now lives in Canada. Her debut, the first police procedural with Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride and his partner Detective Sergeant Billy Lamont of the Belfast police, won the RWA Daphne du Maurier Award, was short-listed in the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence in 2021, and was a Silver Falchion Award finalist at Killer Nashville 2023.

Her second book with DS McBride and DS Lamont is Blood Relations (Level Best Books, 2023). It is set just before COVID, when things changed on so many levels.

The gory murder of retired Chief Inspector Patrick Mullan in his isolated country house has Homicide scrambling for fast answers. The new Homicide manager is convinced the culprit will be found among the many miscreants Mullan sent to prison. The intensity of the killing makes McBride think the murder was personal and wants to look at Mullan’s family and close friends but he follows orders and begins checking with informants. He learns John Bell was released from prison the previous week and that Bell claimed Mullan interfered with his sentencing. In a similar vein McBride also hears suggestions and hints that Mullan was friendlier with the local crime bosses than was seemly for someone in his position.

A complicated investigation with multiple avenues to explore, a victim with a murky past, and intriguing subplots. The supporting characters are great, especially Gracie, Bell’s ex-wife, and Doris, Bell’s mother, who remain fast friends despite Gracie’s separation from Bell. Steady pacing of events and disclosure of clues prevented mid-story slump and kept me engaged.

I pointed out in a review about a month ago and I will say it again here that I am really tired of the competent cop fighting inept upper management trope that is so common now. Not that useless managers don’t exist, I have had more than my fair share of them. But portraying upper management as blithering idiots is not realistic. It’s more accurate to show them as consumed with the administrative demands of their positions: the higher up the chain any employee in any organization moves, the more attuned they have to be to financial and political dynamics. I always thought Steven Havill handled the uninformed manager in the early Bill Gastner books exceptionally well. It’s an approach more writers of police procedurals should consider.

Besides that aspect and I understand other readers may not find the theme as objectionable as I do, I really liked this book; I was especially delighted with the thread involving Gracie and Doris. Recommended!



·         Publisher: Level Best Books (August 1, 2023)

·         Language: English

·         Paperback: 286 pages

·         ISBN-10: 1685123996

·         ISBN-13: 978-1685123994



Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2023

Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.

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