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One For the Road,
This review is from: Road Closed (DI Geraldine Steel) (Paperback)
`Road Closed' is Leigh Russell's second novel - and the second in the D.I. Geraldine Steel series. For those who have read and enjoyed the first, Cut Short, the good news is that this new book is every bit as good, if not better, than that first instalment. The author keeps to a similar structure with this novel: the chapters are brief which helps to keep the story moving at a good pace, allowing us to enter various characters' lives in short bursts. It also helps the reader to succumb to "just one more chapter" syndrome with ease. The writing is clear and unpretentious, the plot satisfying without being impenetrable.
Novels that are part of a series following one particular character can sometimes go off-track when that character's personal life comes too much to the fore. This has not happened with Geraldine Steel. I think the short chapter approach helps with this. Yes, we get plenty of her personal life in the mix, but it doesn't impact on the novel's main thrust as a crime thriller. The novel's title, `Road Closed' refers to the after effects of a house fire in which a man loses his life, but it may also have a metaphorical significance as events in Geraldine's private life are revealed.
Like `Cut Short', `Road Closed' is not, strictly speaking, a whodunit. As the body count climbs, we know who the murderer is. So do the police. The problem is proving it. The characters are neatly drawn. The thuggish Cal Martin is a particularly nasty piece of work. Geraldine Steel herself is perhaps not someone who sticks much in the memory. I struggle to get a mental image of her in my mind: for me, the stories are stronger than the series' main character. Perhaps her ordinariness is a plus-point for this series. Or perhaps I'm too used to television detectives who seem to come with a multitude of foibles.
My quibbles are very minor. This is a highly recommended novel and a very good read. If you enjoyed Leigh Russell's first novel, you're sure to enjoy this as well. If you've not yet read this author, then I'd say it's not strictly necessary to read the two novels in the correct order as there are not too many references to events in `Cut Short'. However, there are several recurring characters from the first novel, and, given how good that novel is, I would recommend that you read it first if you can.
If you're a fan of Margaret Yorke, I think you'd probably like Leigh Russell.