The Promised Land, Barry Maitland
THE PROMISED LAND is the 13th Brock and Kolla police procedural from Barry Maitland. The first novel in the series, THE MARX SISTERS, was originally released in 1994, and here we are at the 13th outing, and Maitland is still writing as assured, elegant and entertaining a police procedural series as you'd want. Always with that little quirk that his designer / architect mind obviously identifies with most strongly - choice of location.
This time the location is Hampstead Heath, the case is the investigation of three brutal murders of women, and the quick identification of a suspect who happens to be a publisher who has been handed a possible literary marvel - an unknown novel by one of the greatest literary figures of the twentieth century. The added layers are that Kolla is now a DCI heading up this murder investigation squad and Brock is recently retired, struggling to find his way without the job. Which means that when the publisher is charged with all three murders, his lawyer calls on Brock for advice. Nothing too contentious, just listen to the accused's story and provide some advice to his lawyer. Leading to Brock ignoring the warnings from partner Suzanne, the bells ringing in his own mind, overstepping the mark, launching some investigations of his own, upsetting Kolla's case, getting himself a serious belting in the process.
It's always interesting to see how an author progresses the personal lives of his main characters (in this case promotion / retirement based on age alone has to happen at some stage surely), whilst simultaneously keeping everybody in play in subsequent books. Rather than head down the trusted mentor or advisor path straight up with THE PROMISED LAND, Maitland's opted to throw a bit of tension between old colleagues into the pot, add some personal jeopardy for Brock, create and solve some personal problems for them both, and generally mix things up quite nicely. All while keeping the elements of an interesting case approach in the air. Suspect Charles Pettigrew is identified very early on in the piece, as is the fact that he's as unlikely a brutal serial killer as you could get. Add in the mysterious manuscript and connections between the author and Pettigrew's family publishing firm, the connection between the manuscript and one of the victim's, and then include the publishing world's reaction to the rumours. Include a true crime writer digging around in the background, introduce Kolla to the joys of upper management, Brock to the intricacies of family life, add a romantic frisson for Kolla, get the balance of everything spot on, and you've got exactly what you'd expect from as gifted a storyteller as Maitland.
It's been a while since the last Brock & Kolla outing (THE RAVEN'S EYE in 2013 by the looks of it) and this reader has missed them. They are one of the great, solid, reliable, enduring duo's of crime fiction and it's good to see THE PROMISED LAND indicating there is some fuel left in their combined tanks.
Brock and Kolla return in an enthralling new mystery from a master of the genre.
Newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector Kathy Kolla investigates a series of brutal murders on Hampstead Heath. Under intense pressure to find answers, she arrests the unlikely figure of John Pettigrew, a failing London publisher who lives alone on the edge of the Heath.
Pettigrew's lawyer calls on recently retired David Brock for advice, and soon, unable to resist the pull of investigation, the old colleagues, Brock and Kolla, are at loggerheads.
At the heart of the gripping mystery of the Hampstead murders lies a manuscript of an unknown novel by one of the greatest literary figures of the twentieth century. Brock believes that its story will unlock the puzzle, but how?