When a corpse is found in the freezer of an unoccupied mansion, DS Alexandra Cupidi is handed a case made even colder by nobody seeming to know – or care – who the dead man is.
Her investigation is complicated by suggestions of a political cover-up linked to a greenfield site designated for a high-profile housing project, plus the discovery of a young boy’s skeleton dating from decades earlier. A find her instincts tell her is somehow linked.
Cupidi is also still coming to terms with being a parochial cop after an ill-advised liaison with a fellow officer in the Met resulted in her relocation to the flat-lands of her Kent.
The book deals intelligently with the conflicting interests of progress and traditional country values, while Shaw makes superb use of the landscape of Dungeness as a dramatic backdrop to murder, corruption and the struggling local wildlife.
To my surprise, I was totally hooked by the brief, inspired chapters by the old badger.
I will resist giving further spoilers about the plot, but must mention the author’s mastery of character, especially that between women: Cupidi’s difficult relationship with her spiky teenage daughter, Zoe; her distance from her own eccentric mother; her evolving partnership with young, man-magnet colleague, Jill Ferriter.
I was delighted to be introduced to this writer by a fellow member of ninevoices and to discover that this police procedural is one of a series featuring the complex but likeable Alexandra Cupidi. I have invested in another. But you should be warned that I am reading them out of order, and you may wish to begin at the beginning, with The Birdwatcher.
And don’t worry about that badger. He isn’t in the least twee and has important things to teach the reader.