MurderX3 Reviews by Terry LennoxWritten by Tim Kendall
The BMX Kid & The River Cult Murders (New Pulp Press)
“I immediately ordered the bin to be taken in as evidence. The caff owner protested vigorously but sod him, we’re the Surrey police we can take any bin we want.”
The cover is an evocative English waterside pic, but what really drew me in and made me and decide to give this a go was the intriguing title of the chapter headings - Haribo Lecter, She Sell Cat Sanctuary and A Night at Madame Headlock’s.
The BMX Kid is a straight procedural detective fiction told in an easy free flowing style – like you’re talking to the lead investigator in a pub and he’s loosened up after a few drinks. But the easy writing style belies the complexity of the plot, which needs close attention and once the juggernaut of the investigation starts motoring it’s a compulsive read – each plot development leads us head-long to the next stage.
There’s a satanic ritual element to the story, which is used to control and instil fear into the sex workers. Apparently this is all based on a series real life murders which took place in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1979/1980, but I also spotted elements of the Son of Sam case – and the satanic panic of the West Memphis 3 case.
Sometimes I felt the narrative was a little too fast (they really should spent a beat or two longer at the atmospheric Brooklands Tunnel location) and some of our American cousins will be scratching their heads at some of the narrator’s English pub cultural references, but all in all it’s a mesmerising read – it all feels so real – combining the grit of a true crime tale with the page turning structure of the best fictional detective story. If I get another round in, hopefully he’ll tell me some more.
The Ritual of the Savage (Hungry Eye Books)
“Like a moth to the flame, I was attracted. I know nice girls don’t go to bars alone, but I was too loaded to want a nice girl.”
Now the hard boiled American private eye has been parodied and pastiched to within an inch of his life. But wait - there’s life in the old dog yet. Set in California during the Long Hot Summer of 58, The Ritual of the Savage is a homage to that location and era – the cars, the clothes, the music, the crime. Being set in the 1950s the era is more Micky Spillane and Ross MacDonald – than Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett.
Johnny Davis is an Iwo Jima veteran and now a down on his luck private eye with a taste for clothes and an eye for the ladies. A missing person investigation takes him into a world of deadly industrial espionage, having to hide a chemical formula hidden in a record sleeve - and a mystery flask hidden inside a Tiki sculpture which could just be the drug that is set to split the sixties wide open – L.S.D.
The sunset strip cocktail lounges, crazy beatnik clubs and desert ranch locations are all vividly described and there’s plenty of cultural references to evoke the era. The narrative rolls along and would make an excellent audio book set to a rocking soundtrack. And we have just the man to put that soundtrack together - the author will be a familiar to anyone on the London warehouse scene in the 1980s - Jay Strongman was among the very first “name” DJs, as in to have his name on the flyer as a selling point.
Practical Homicide Investigation - Homicide hand-book - Checklist and Field Guide (CRC Press)
This edition is spiral bound on laminated paper to withstand life out in the field and with checklists, graphs, diagrams and lots of key facts, this is your go-to book if you are ever called upon to investigate a homicide. But it also has another use - an invaluable research source for writers. It was The BMX Kid author who turned me onto this who used it to get the procedural authenticity for his book.
There’s a graphical section on blood splatters, gun shot wounds, fire damage and the different forensic techniques to searching a crime scene. The manual is kept up to date with an extensive section on the collection of electronic and digital evidence.
Some of it course is the bleeding obvious - (for instance “most suicides occur as a result of depression”) and the stuff on sealing and protecting the crime scene. But those of us who study real crime will know that all too often the bleedin’ obvious get neglected by the real life investigator. Seattle Police take note - when a the death appears to be a suicide DO NOT assume it be so, and still conduct a thorough investigation of the death scene and surrounding areas.
It’s written by Vernon J. Geberth – former Commanding Officer of the Bronx Homicide Task Force, a leading expert in this field who has recently been seen on TV’s The Killing Season and the film Soaked In Bleach.