I fancied a police procedural without any weird magical stuff, so I gave this a shot (Kindle version, as part of a free 7 day Kindle Unlimited trial). DI Nick Dixon has recently moved back to his home town, leaving the fast pace of the Metropolitan police force behind. It’s early days, and while he hasn’t made any obvious enemies in his new role, he’s not making friends fast either. With hardly any furniture in his house, few friends other than his dog, but plenty of memories of the area, his day is about to be ruined as he becomes involved in investigating the death of his one time climbing partner and friend, Jake.
As the Crow Flies is Damien Boyd’s first novel and it’s pretty short; at 173 pages it took me about 3 hours to finish. The pace is flat, the dialogue is stilted and the prose is extremely workmanlike. Half way through (and I was surprised to find myself half way through) I wondered if the author was in the police force, because most of the novel is written in the style of a police statement. DI Nick goes here, has this conversation, records these facts, then goes and buys some chips. There’s very little character development, and the prose is very light on emotional content. Perhaps the dialogue is accurate in the sense that it is how people talk in police briefing rooms, but it doesn’t work very well in a novel format if that’s the case.
The plot is reasonably simple, but engaging, with one suspicious death leading to various interesting events. It’s just that the delivery is so straight and flat that it’s hard to care about anyone involved. Boyd’s clearly spent some time rock-climbing, and there are plenty of climbing references (many unintelligible to me) throughout, with descriptions of some nice climbing locations which I assume are real. If you like climbing, you’ll get more from the book than a non-climber.
To give Boyd his due, I did finish the book, I was interested enough in the crime to keep going, especially when I realised how short it was going to be, but honestly it has the feeling of a first novel in need of much more depth.
Boyd, it turns out, is a former solicitor and I can’t help but wonder if that is where the style comes from – having had to spend so much time writing out factual accounts of events. There are plenty more books in this series, so people are buying them, and I hope that Boyd manages to loosen up his style as the books progress. I’m just not sure I’m going to immediately turn to them as my next read. I’m giving this a pretty low score generally, but the book has plenty of five star reviews on Amazon. If you like short, sharp police procedurals, and don’t mind too much about flat characters and awkward dialogue, there’s enough here to keep you entertained for an evening, but only just.