This Thing of Darkness

Written by Harry Bingham

Review written by Bob Cartwright

This Thing of Darkness
RRP: £12.99
Released: July 7, 2015
Trade Paperback

Detective Constable Griffiths tends to get more than her fair share of tedious assignments. In this case that involves labelling and cataloguing criminal evidence for a pending trial. But being banished to the bowels of the cop shop for that purpose has its advantages as she can hide herself away from the colleagues who tend to annoy her in an office she has customised to her satisfaction, and where she can toke on the occasional joint when things get too heavy.

Yes, Fiona Griffiths is that sort of cop, and believe me you will love her for it. She is also the kind of underling who will happily poke her nose where it’s not wanted. Thus her curiosity is piqued by the death of a security worker whose body is found at the bottom of a cliff on the South Wales shoreline. That interest is fuelled further by a suspicious burglary at a nearby mansion.

The mystery initially relates to how someone climbed the cliff to get at the security guard and how the burglar(s) got in through first floor windows without leaving the slightest evidence of how they managed that climb. Cue the first element of research involved – rock climbing. Another line of inquiry opens up when the articles stolen from the mansion are offered back to the insurance company in return for a sizeable reward. Even more interesting is the fact that the owners of the mansion not only happen to have a significant shareholding in the insurance company, they also have an interest in the communications pipeline firm the security guard was protecting.  Cue research into insurance scams and sub-oceanic cables.

Having impressed her superiors by her ability to resolve elements of the earlier mysteries Fiona pushes their patience to the limits by getting herself recruited as the cook on a fishing vessel working the near reaches of the Atlantic. No, it is not to enable her to get onto the next series of Celebrity Masterchef, as much as to find out who intends to sabotage efforts to connect up a communication cable which will provide fast internet between America and Britain, and more pertinently how they intend to do it. Final cue for research on deep sea fishing and catering for fishermens’ stomachs in full force storms.

Back at the tail end of the last century I recall a crime fiction series written by a male author which featured a female heroine. At the time I thought the series was reasonably enjoyable and certainly did not foresee the backlash which came from some of our sisters in crime. I’m not sure what they were so I won’t make any effort to repeat the rights and wrongs of the argument. Suffice it to say the author in question quickly retreated into the background, the series ended abruptly, and for a long time male crime writers seemed to shy away from featuring female heroes.

In recent years Harry Bingham is one of the few male writers to have developed a female heroine and thus far I have seen nothing critical of his writing of Fiona Griffiths. I certainly have no problem with her and she reminds me very much of Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander (or I should now say David Lagercrantz’s). Like Salandar she has more than her fair share of psychological problems, though thankfully they have not prevented her joining the police in South Wales and working her way up the promotion ladder.

What I also like about Fiona and the series, now in their fourth outing, is that Harry Bingham does not spare his heroine and throws her into situations most male tecs would want to avoid. In so doing the author also throws himself into storylines which must involve a fair amount of time in background research that makes each of the books particularly colourful and innovative. This Thing of Darkness is no exception.

In my humble view they get better and better. For full effect I would suggest that potential readers start at the beginning with Talking to the Dead as that will add enormously to the enjoyment and appreciation of the stories, and the very interesting Fiona Griffiths.

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