Most helpful critical review
Crime, romance or amateur psychology book?
on 5 May 2015
I love the Skinner book series, and have in fact read them all within the space of a year being introduced to the series rather late. The plots tend to be rather far-fetched and I can't stand Skinner, who is just as self-obsessed, ruthless, arrogant and murderous as the villains he tries to put away. Then again, such people make it to the top, and it is interesting to have a police procedural series written about the man at the top - a chief constable. No, what makes the series interesting is the page-turner style in which it is written and the other characters, whose lives you follow in a story-arc style.The other characters in the series are more like normal human beings, and as a result more likeable. In fact, in this book and its rather unusual format (each of the Skinner series' characters tells their version of events in the first person), they all have almost as much floor space as the great man. Sadly, that strength is the weakness of the book. It takes the "speed" out of the book. Each character rehashes their life story to the reader (stuff that we already know in elaborate detail from the previous books), before offering a bit info relevant to the overall plot of the book. The main reason why I did not enjoy this book as much as the rest of the series is the preposterous retelling and reworking of Skinner's sad love-life. Quintin Jardine likes to analyse, re-analyse, re-re-analyse and then analyse it again in the series. And like Chinese whispers, with each analysis and retelling it becomes slightly different to suit some story agenda. Bob's third marriage (to the ex-first minister Aileen de Marco) was made in heaven, simply because his first wife (Myra) blessed it from up there - so we have been told - over and over again in previous books. For example, Bob was never as happy with a woman since Myra died and her ghost had been (sort of) laid to rest. Now in this book he gets back together with his estranged second wife Sarah, claiming that it is a bad omen that he never mentions Myra to Aileen, but always did (daily) to Sarah. And on it goes. The great Bob Skinner has re-analysed his love-life to such extent again that it feels like it could be the truth (at least for the duration of this book) and he can get on with things again (although his heart bleeds, of course)....What irks me a little bit is the way that Aileen gets portrayed by the author here, as a shallow 2-dimensional politician, whereas in the other books you really took to her. A ploy to spice things up a bit, with Sarah coming back? Did he cleverly not reveal all to us in the past about who Aileen really was? Sigh. Really? The whole love-life element, which takes up far too many pages, is just cheap bad romance fiction. The conversations are full of self-help book psychology nonsense. This is what seriously slows the book down, but also why, I suspect, quite a few other reviewers have said the book feels like "padding" in the series. After having finished the book, I was not sure what I had read; a crime, a romance or amateur psychology book. Nothing wrong with integrating the three, and possibly that's why the interesting narrative structure/style was used, but sadly the integration lacked and Bob's pathetic love-life remake then killed it off.