On a number of occasions over the course of Alison Bruce’s Cambridge based police procedural series DI Marks has commented on just how totally impossible it would be to run a team that consisted of half a dozen DC Goodhew clones. Personally, I have always wondered how he manages with just one. Not that I dislike Bruce’s lead character, Gary Goodhew. It would be hard to dislike a young man who is so clearly devoted to bringing justice to those who have suffered at the hands of some seriously vicious murderers. However, following the leaps of understanding that his mind makes and the consequent byways he explores, often directly against orders, demands a certain amount of mental dexterity on the part of the reader and a lot of tolerance on the part of DI Marks. I have worked in hierarchical situations where Goodhew wouldn’t have lasted a week. I suppose the clear-up rate which he has been responsible for over the course of the last six novels has helped and in this latest instalment, The Promise, the fact that this includes not just the immediate murder but also unsolved crimes from the past has to be a factor in his favour as well.
The current murder, and the one which brings Gary back to work before he is officially considered fully recovered from the fall that made him question his place in the police service for himself, is that of Ratty, a homeless man who has, in the past, offered information that Goodhew has been able to use in his pursuit of justice. Gary is concerned that his immediate superior, DS Kincaide, will not investigate the crime with the resolve that he thinks it deserves simply because of Ratty’s standing (or lack thereof) in the community. He is, of course, right to be so concerned. If a team made up of Gary Goodhews is a scary prospect, one composed entirely of the Kincaides of this world is downright depressing. Good at cutting corners, not beyond tampering with the evidence and a menace to any woman he happens to take a fancy to, DS Kincaide makes you despair for the police service. Thank goodness then for Goodhew and the ever developing PC Sue Gully who recognise not only that Ratty deserves as much consideration as the next victim but also that the horrific facial mutilation he has suffered suggests that he is unlikely to have been the killer’s first target. Their search for the motive behind the killings and the significance of the mutilations takes them through the back streets of Cambridge and into the murky world of the lock-up garage. Just how many are there? And what do they contain?
Alongside the main investigation Bruce runs the continuing story of Goodhew’s background. Over the course of the preceding novels we have gradually learnt more of why he has been brought up in the main by his formidable grandmother and in this novel we start to uncover the enigma behind his grandfather’s death and the role that DI Marks played in the subsequent investigation. The book concludes with Gary finally managing to recall what his part in those events was and, knowing his determination to get to the bottom of any mystery, I would imagine that the next in the series will see him following his own instincts to discover what actually happened to Goodhew Senior. Whether or not he will do that from within the police service is, of course, another matter. DI Marks has taken retirement and the possibility of finding another superior officer willing to give Goodhew the licence he has so far enjoyed seems to me to push the boundaries of credibility just a wee bit too far. Nevertheless, I shall be there to find out and hope that we don’t have to wait quite as long for the next novel as we had to for this.
(With thanks to Little Brown Book Group who made this available for review.)