This crime novel is the first in a projected series by Alison Bruce set in Cambridgeshire and featuring detective Gary Goodhew; I found it an easy read, with some well-written scenes, but ultimately rather unsatisfying. I think my main problem with this novel was the resolution of the murder mystery plot itself; the ending was rather convoluted and clumsily handled, and I found myself losing track of who did what and what the motive was. I enjoyed some of the characterisation, especially the gradual detailing of Lorna Spence, the first murder victim, and found Goodhew a refreshing lead in some respects, with his relative youth and lack of a tortured past thus far (although there are hints that more might be revealed in later novels concerning his family). However, other reviewers here are correct in pointing out that most of the rest of the police force are merely used as foils to showcase Goodhew's supposed brilliance, which does become rather wearing.
I was particularly keen to read this novel as I live in Cambridge, and Bruce clearly knows the city down to the ground. There was something rather creepy in being able to pinpoint almost to the square yard where each murder took place... Having said that, however, I felt that she failed to capture the atmosphere of her selected locality very well; although she runs through an accurate litany of street names and landmarks as the characters move about the city, I was only able to visualise a real image of each setting through my prior knowledge of what the street or area looks like, and so if you don't know Cambridge well, I'm thinking this might all fall a bit flat. This formed part of a wider problem I had with the writing, which was that it seemed very clinical and rather clunky at times. For some scenes this worked well - for example, the early sequences from Lorna's point of view - but I found myself losing interest about halfway through, when in most good crime novels, this is the point at which I'm drawn further in.
Although I haven't really read a huge range of crime fiction, I think this novel reminded me most of PD James's style in the way it delved into the minds of a number of the potential suspects and background figures, while attemping a wider portrait of Cambridge, but it's nowhere near as good as any of her work. However, I would still recommend it to crime fiction fans as a reasonably good read, and I suspect that, as this is Bruce's first novel, later installments might be better.