My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Unlike a lot of people who have discovered Robert Bryndza for the first time through this story and were surprised to hear he had previously written romantic comedy, I’ve been reading Robert’s books for a while and was very shocked to hear he’d written a detective story.
I’m a big fan of his Coco Pinchard series and have loved his eccentric cast of characters and their completely insane actions so I wasn’t sure how he would tackle a who dunit. It seemed like a pretty big leap to me but somehow he’s managed to do it brilliantly.
There are some similarities, the Eastern European elements, the diverse mix of characters and the fact that everyone seems to smoke 🙂 but that’s pretty much it. It’s very much your traditional police procedural about the murder of a young woman and while there is the odd joke he definitely takes the whole thing very seriously.
It’s well written, with some great characters and a story that keeps you turning the pages late into the night.
Synopsis (from GoodReads)
Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one.
When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.
The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.
What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?
As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.
The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong… resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?
I have to admit I was a bit wary coming into this book as it’s rare for an author to move successfully from one genre to a completely different one. Somehow though Robert Bryndza has managed the switch from rom com to murder mystery fantastically well. I was very impressed and while I do love his Coco Pinchard series I think he’s definitely found his calling in crime fiction.
At the centre of the story is DCI Erika Foster, brought in after a period of absence from the force to lead the special task force investigating a high profile murder case. She’s told it’s because she’s good at her job but given her recent history it seems highly probable that she’s actually there as the fall guy should anything go wrong. Almost immediately she clashes with the other DCI on the investigation (DCI Sparks) who thinks he should be leading the case resulting in a lot of tension within the squad. Foster is in a difficult position with her bosses demanding results, the media looking for a story and the threat of being replaced if it all goes wrong.
I’ve read some criticism of Erika Foster, she’s too argumentative, some of her actions are ridiculous but I liked her a lot and thought that while a lot of her actions weren’t always the most sensible they fit with the character the author had created. There is a little bit of the detective stereotyping going on (the tough female cop who’ll go to any lengths to catch the bad guy) but it works and is kind of what you expect from this type of story. She’s in a difficult position but sticks to her guns and fights her corner.
What I thought really made this a good story though was the cast of supporting characters of which there are many. There are a few more stereotypes here too, the miserable colleague who’s out to stitch her up, the boss trying to pull her back in line, but there are also some pretty unique characters too. I particularly liked colleagues Crane, Moss and Woolfe but Ivy and Linda also made for interesting and unique additions. Every character is well defined and each has their attributes and flaws. As this is the first in the series, it is only an introduction to a lot of them and I think it will be interesting to see how they develop in subsequent books.
The story itself isn’t particularly unique but when it comes down to murder mystery there aren’t a lot of new ideas left. While it isn’t the most original I did think it was very well done and it did hook me. It’s not perfect but given the author is new to the genre I think the series definitely has potential.