By Hylton H Smith
It's the year 2018 and Britain has been expelled from the European Union. Over in the Northeast of the country the body of a wealthy Industrialist is found, draped at the base of the iconic sculpture - The Angel of the North.
D.C.I. Jack Renton soon begins to understand that this isn't a simple murder but the work of a serial killer amidst a country gripped in fear, swamped by organised crime, political apathy and on the verge of Civil unrest.
Resident Fear is a very intriguing novel, the only real nod to science fiction is the near future setting which predicts a worryingly realistic turn to the country that while isn't apocalyptic or dystopian is a gentle stroll in that direction. This is brought home by the fact that technological advancements are for the most part underplayed (after all this is only 6 years hence).
There are a few subtle nods to sci-fi though, such as the primary murder victim's name - Alastair Banks - representing the names of two of the more popular contemporary scifi writers. That aside it's quite a departure from the authors other novels although in style it feels a tiny little bit like Sacred Protocol.
The story plays out as a police procedural detective novel, including a convoluted plot, lot's of colourful characters and some very effective use of the North Eastern setting. Regular fan's of the author can be assured that the same voice projects from the page and without any exposition on technical matters or world-building the pace is pretty fluid. It reminds me a little of the Scandinavian detective novels that were originally inspired by that talented team Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö.
This murder mystery format set against a backdrop of high unemployment, social unrest and a country on the brink of economic collapse is just sheer genius and manages to encapsulate the problems that face this country right now. Not only does the novel highlight these issues in an intelligent and thought provoking manner but it takes them to the next logical step, that step that puts even greater control over the country in the hands of the wealthy, in the hands of the faceless corporate companies and results in a country that teeters on the edge of civil unrest and relegation to the status of a Second World country - are we really that far from this now?.
The main protagonist of Jack Renton makes an effective sleuth and I loved the level of detail that's used in analysis of the crime scenes. A large part of the appeal has to be the realistic depiction of the police force too, here they don't always get it right - in fact they get it wrong just as often - and you can really feel the frustration that this makes to those affected by such errors, it also makes the whole novel feel that bit more real.
As with other novels by the author there is a lot more going on than first appears and just when you think you've got it figured out there's a big reveal that moves the goal-posts, all done in the same deadpan approach that makes the writing so effective, the plot really does manage to keep you on your toes throughout the story.
If you like procedural crime novels then you will love this, it manages to tick all the boxes that make up a good story - interesting characters, a twisting plot and a well structured story. For those who like a bit more there is also an effective commentary on the current social and political climate within the UK, superb.
Written on 23rd April 2012 by Ant .