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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 25 June 2012
I have read a whole sackful of crime/ thriller/ police procedural novels, and Bingham's 'Talking to the Dead' is, without a doubt, one of the best. Apart from the fact that the plot zips along at just the right speed, that the writing is bloody good, he has invented a protagonist so kooky and idiosyncratic, that I would love to invite her home to dinner. It becomes apparent that D.C.Fiona Griffiths has a dark past of her own, but it is precisely her own peculiar history, coupled with her rather unique way of seeing the world, that enables her to solve the murders of Janet and April Mancini. Fiona is a real flesh and blood character. She is funny, quirky, tragic...at times, self-centred. And her peculiar slant on life, together with her modus operandi, has turned her into a character one cannot easily forget. I eagerly await Bingham's next Griffiths novel. As far as I'm concerned, it cannot come soon enough.
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on 3 July 2012
It's a while since I have read any crime,I've been a 'vegetarian' reader for some years, but I was intrigued from the moment I read the intro on Harry's Website. The book arrived two days after surgery and it certainly took my mind off the recovery! With feisty Fiona you are instantly gripped and her's is an unusual and often unexpected viewpoint. As a fan of the Welsh countryside, and recent visitor to Cardiff, I really enjoyed the evocative snapshots of the city itself and the surrounding landscape. They mysteries of Fiona's past are a good sub-plot that will stand to support a series, I am sure. Harry's style is gripping and very pacey, and I am looking forward to the next one already!
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on 12 July 2012
For someone who writes on how to write it must be nerve-wracking to have your own novel come under intense scrutiny. All I can say is that Harry Bingham walks the walk...his feisty female protagonist, Fi Griffiths swept me along with her quirky ways, reeling me in until I cared as much about her making a go of a new relationship as I did about her solving the murder of a prostitute and her six-year-old daughter. Fi is a rule-breaker with her own moral code and some brilliant observations on the world around her, carrying with her equal doses of fearlessness and vulnerability. Some of her descriptions of other people are so spot on: 'A woman who looks like her hobbies are arranging things in rows and making right angles.'
'She's tough, but in the right way. The kind of tough that doesn't rule out tender.'
'Mam makes a face. Everything was better when people wore corsets, that sort of face.'

I hope this is the start of long series...move over Harlan and Patricia. Get writing, Harry, we want more!
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on 24 June 2012
I've read some of Harry's non-fiction before but none of his fiction, and when I read that he wasn't even a big fan of crime fiction before he wrote this, I had my doubts. So he sat down to read lots of UK and US crime, then apparently the main character in this book just started talking to him and it led to the best book he's ever written. Hmm... Not afraid of setting the bar high, Harry! Anyway, he was right to... this is the most compelling and unusual crime novel I've read in a very long time (and I read a LOT). I felt like Fiona Griffiths was talking to me, too. I almost didn't care about the crime, such was the pull of her personality. I also loved the punchy writing style, the setting, and the fact that the minor characters seemed to come to life all by themselves. Also, this is the second book I've read in the last couple of weeks with a first person point-of-view. The previous one was good, but I felt there were a lot of 'I, I, Is' that distracted from the narrative - this doesn't happen in this book. First person seems natural, and it couldn't really be any other way. If I have to add anything negative at all, it'd be to say that you do need to completely suspend your disbelief when reading this - what Fiona gets up to is bordering on the insanely impossible, but then again, that's the exact thing that shapes her character. Can't wait for the next in the series.
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on 2 July 2012
I read a lot of crime fiction and Harry Bingham's Talking to the Dead is the best I've read for a long time. Fiona Griffiths is possibly the weirdest Detective Constable I've ever come across but she has her reasons, though they're a bit weird too. But weird works in this book because Fiona has an enormous capacity for compassion, she's honest, she's tenacious and she's brave. And when you understand what it is she's hiding behind her weirdness, you'll understand why this is a big deal for her. I couldn't help but be drawn to her and her quirky view of the world. What makes this book really great is that, aswell as a unique main character, the plot is fast-paced, compelling and tragic but also finds room for (dark) humour, friendship and love - and there are plenty of twists to keep the pages turning. Can't wait for the next in the series!
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on 13 August 2012
My 5 star rating is based on the fact that this book achieves the page-turner status, and that isn't something easily done. For me, there's a double dose of success here, because I was driven to turn pages even though I took the book away as holiday reading, a time when I usually aim high but end up carrying the ranks of the unread back in my luggage.

I didn't find it perfect. The novel requires some suspensions of disbelief every bit as big as in a fantasy novel, particularly around the action, or inaction of senior police officers in their supervision of the main character. Neither was I convinced by the romantic relationship between Fiona and Brydon. In fact, I found that relationship the biggest problem. Once the parameters of what Fiona would and would not do, could or could not get away with, were established, the story proceeded quite coherently and authentically inside these limits; but the Brydon relationship still nagged away.

It isn't a story for police procedural fans after convoluted plots that they can immerse themselves in working out. The story is strong, beautifully paced, and there are twists and surprises along the way. There is also a strong supporting cast, including a very nicely portrayed bent copper with whom we are convinced to have some sympathy in spite of his quite awful behaviour. But that isn't what this story is all about. The real triumph is the drawing of Fiona Griffiths who is a marvellous creation, and a genuine original. She is a thoroughly engaging character, and what happens to her matters. If there are signs of her settling into her fictional world in this story, then that is no surprise.
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on 11 April 2016
Fiona ‘Fi’ Griffiths might be a junior officer assigned to a fraud investigation, but she’s willing to manoeuvre herself onto the team investigating the murders in a dingy flat. Her intelligence, among other clever moves and clandestine activities, is a key factor in her unravelling the links between the two cases. I knew that she would struggle until the justice that she demanded was implemented; but I was never quite sure whether she would prevail.

Those brains have earned her a degree, and set her apart from many colleagues. [Note: The College of Policing has proposed that, “Every new constable from 2019 could be required to have a degree – or agree to work towards an equivalent qualification.]

This active mind is a facet of a complex character that is well described through her POV. That voice is distinctive, revealing and never feels like the author. The voice of Fi kept me reading, wanting her to battle through everything thrown at her, some from outside and some from in herself, or in her past.

But it becomes clear from Fi’s words that she struggles to be part of ‘Planet Normal’ and the author makes that part of her engrossing personality. Her weirdness worked for me, leading the reader down murky paths on Cardiff’s darker side, and in her mind.

Fi is not your conventional detective, nor are her methods. She is a complex character and she shoves the investigation in unexpected directions. The author weaves words and phrases with style, bringing this world of Cardiff alive, for me at least. This was a different Wales from the area I know – Snowdonia – and yet there were glimpses of the rural roots at the country’s heart, and those roots are an intrinsic part of Fi.

Some readers have criticised the writer for creating a policewoman that would fail her first psych test. But I’m with those that realise that her intelligence gives Fi the edge in working the system in her favour. There were moments when I felt she might be bending the rules precariously, but she has the ability – and luck – to evade crashing over the precipice, this time. And if she can confuse her colleagues, what chance have the criminals.

The novel is not just about an investigation – that would make this just another crime read. This is about Fi and her personal attitudes, demons, and questions, so I’m full of praise for the way that Harry Bingham pulls this off, especially in the final chapter. A superb read that compels me to read the rest of the series.
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on 9 January 2015
I actually enjoyed this book until about three quarters of the way through when I suddenly realised that I had turned many pages where the plot didn't move at all. It seemed stuck in a groove with endless interviews with prostitutes and sex workers social workers. I also found that I was 'going off' the central character, Fiona, as she became a little too weird for me
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on 27 September 2012
Just finished this. What a great book. I tend to read American crime fiction these days because I find so much of British crime fiction to be ploddy police procedurals or unremittingly grim psychological thrillers and they're just no fun but this was clever, chilling, involving, and refreshingly off-beat.

It's a first-person narrative - the author, a man, makes a very convincing woman - in the voice of a policewoman with some very peculiar qualities. The surprises come at you sideways. Wonderfully well-written. I'll be getting a lot of my friends this for Xmas.
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on 15 August 2016
What an excellent tale from Mr Bingham as we join Fiona Griffiths at the start of her police career and follow a tale of prostitution and violent deaths

Despite dreadful odds Fiona wins through, her survival aided by her strange mentor who is a man of extreme violence and as much a loner as Fiona is, yet always willing to give Fiona guidance when it comes to survival.

For me this was a most enjoyable book, beautifully written, and yes, she does talk to dead bodies!.
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