DEADLY INTENT is the fourth book in the Anna Travis series, made up of ABOVE SUSPICION, THE RED DAHLIA and CLEAN CUT. It's been a series which I've really enjoyed... up until this book, which I have to say disappointed.
Anna is a dogged sort of a detective character, who has had a complicated personal life - having had a short-lived but dramatic affair with her previous boss - James Langton. She is still feeling the loss of that relationship and finding dealing with Langton on a daily basis very difficult. When he steps into overall control of the investigation of the death of Brandon, she's dealing firstly with a very complicated case with no apparent leads, and secondly with her fragile personal feelings. Langton is more shadowy than ever in DEADLY INTENT as well, which is going to make it difficult for any reader new to the series to understand, for a start, what Anna could possibly have seen in him, or in his defence, why he is like he is. There are hints throughout but they just didn't seem to help that much. For such a big, hefty book there are a number of underdone major characters throughout which is disappointing. DCI Cunningham has a touch of the wonderfully acerbic, grumpy female seniors about her, but she bounces in and out of the narrative so much it's hard to get a good look at her.
The case is quite clever - the connections that slowly have to be built up to explain why Brandon was in the drug squat, what would lead to his presence being so threatening that somebody would blindly shoot him through a closed door, how the other bodies turning up are connected and onwards is actually nicely baffling and quite interesting. But it drags on for too long. There are too many connections and "coincidences" which aren't - and they obviously aren't, and it all grinds to a halt in the personal lives of all and sundry too frequently.
Another major distraction is that whilst in the earlier books there is a lot of concentration on the relationship between Travis and Langton, it's rise and ultimate fall fitted into the storylines well, not distracting from the main aim of the books which was always to solve a baffling crime. Unfortunately in this book - with the definite end of the relationship the constant soul-searching of Travis just gets in the way - there were way too many times when the reader was told all about how conflicted she is having to work with Langton, how she still loves Langton, how a new relationship will be complicated by the pain she felt when Langton left her. And she does form a new relationship in this book - and it is a bit of a highlight in the storyline for a short while.
Ultimately the biggest problem with DEADLY INTENT is that there is a a good crime and investigation buried in the middle of 641 pages - but there's not 641 pages of it. The book meanders, there's too much fill-in, too many unbelievable red herrings, and, despite being a fan of unresolved loose ends, there are too many threads in this book which are left frustratingly, unjustifiably and inexplicably dangling. It all smacked just a tiny bit of... In The Next Episode.
If you've not tried the Anna Travis series, then don't let my thoughts on DEADLY INTENT put you off the first three books - they were terrific. Perhaps don't start with this one though as there's a lot of the personal things that may not make sense, and the book could give you a slightly skewed view of Anna, who is really a very good central character.