As regular readers will know, I am a fan of certain types of crime fiction, starting with Ian Rankin and working downwards: and in crime stories, just as in epic narratives, there are universals. As every epic starts with an encounter, every crime story needs a location. Plot is hugely important, as is character – but location arguably outranks* both; in fact setting can be a character in its own right. Who could imagine Rebus outside of Edinburgh? I feel I know Rebus’s city almost as well as he does; I can picture the seedy alleyways and run-down estates: I’ve climbed Arthur’s Seat, been inside the Castle and visited Warriston Cemetery. Similarly the Isle of Lewis comes through loud and clear in Peter May’s ‘Lewis Trilogy’. Islands are good locations for crime as they are finite, bounded by the sea; places where people cannot easily come or go. They are dramatic and often dangerous. But a city can be dramatic and dangerous in a different way: and none more so than London.
So it was with deep joy that I pounced upon ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’, the latest – and, I assume, the last – in the Nicci French ‘Frieda Klein’ series, in which London is a character as brooding and ever-present as Rankin’s Edinburgh.
Freida, a psychotherapist who lives near the river, is the protagonist of these stories. But though she lives alone she is hardly ever left to her own devices; apart from her clients she has a succession of friends who both support her and bring their own problems for her to solve. They are her virtual family, her real family being both unloving and absent.
There is a single villain at the back of all the events in the series; a villain who grooms, abuses, murders and who, for the last few books, has been assumed by the authorities to be dead. And not without reason, since they buried his body: Frieda, however, believes the body they buried was that of his estranged twin brother; and that Dean Reeve is alive, stalking her and killing anyone who gets in her way.
The series spans a week, starting with ‘Blue Monday’. I am deep into this latest volume, and if past form is anything to go by, will probably finish it at the weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Here’s the series:
Here are the Peter May books:
and here’s an article on Rankin’s Edinburgh: