“An Accidental Death”, published in 2013, is one of the best British police crime novels I’ve read in a long time.
The first thing in its favour is that the whole novel is character driven. DC Smith is a wonderful invention: cliché-free and deeply imagined. In this first novel, he constantly surprised me, yet each new thing that I learned about him added to a picture that was as credible as it was intriguing. I liked his quietly unconventional, more than slightly subversive way of dealing with power and threat. The people around Smith are also much more than plot devices.
The second thing in its favour is the tone of the novel. The writing is assured, delivering the story at a pace that feels unrushed but never drags. “An Accidental Death” feels very real and very English. The police procedural elements are strongly grounded in the climate created by the crippling cuts to the Police service that Theresa May, as Home Secretary, had already begun inflicting when this book was published
The final thing in its favour is the structure of the plot. The current case under investigation is unusual without being sensational. It covers contemporary topics from school briefings on drugs through to international terrorism and is designed to provide as much insight into DC Smith as it does to the causes and execution of the crimes being investigated.
By the end of the novel, I’d developed a deep admiration for DC Smith as a person and as a police officer and great respect for Peter Grainger’s ability to write character-driven crime novels that are original, entertaining, and thoroughly English.
I am now keen to read the rest of the book in series (seven more so far).
I recommend listening to them as audiobooks as Gildart Jackson’s narration really brings the books alive.