Wales is the destination in Harry Bingham’s absorbing and highly original novel Talking to the Dead, featuring a fresh new character, DC Fiona Griffiths.13414567

Fiona talks directly to the reader, and this first person point of view goes down extremely well as it’s clear that Fiona is, well, perhaps the kindest way of putting it–a little odd.  “I’m not that good at feelings. Not yet. Not the really ordinary human ones that arise from instinct like water bubbling up from a hillside spring . . .”

She’s attractive but emotionally blunted, very intense in her job, and isn’t the best at social interactions. It’s not that she wouldn’t like to appear more normal; it’s just that for Fiona, there’s a gap between what she sees in others and how she reacts herself. And let’s not mention that two-year gap in her teens that anyone who hears of readily assumes was a breakdown.

She also one of the most unique and endearing characters created in fiction that Auntie M has come across in a long while.

In Cardiff, her newest case’s crime scene contains two bodies: a young, single mother whose prostitution and sometimes drug habit probably went a long way to contributing to her death; and the victim’s six year-old daughter, horribly murdered when the killer dropped a farmhouse sink on her head, killing her and pinning the child underneath it, wiping out the top half of her face.

Also found at the house is a perplexing piece of evidence: the credit card of long-presumed dead, wealthy tycoon Brendan Rattigan. What was Janet Mancini, sometime prostitute and heroin-addict, doing with Rattigan’s platinum card? And how does it tie in to her death and the murder of her daughter, April?

Fiona takes her orders seriously but works overtime on her own theories. Then a second prostitute is found dead, and the risks she faces escalate quicker than she can handle.

This is the complex mystery with a compelling new heroine, whose secrets threaten to overwhelm her at every turn. It is to Bingham’s credit that he includes Fiona’s nearby family, and for once, this is a loving support system for the main character, who faces her own demons.

It is little April who captures Fiona’s attention, sure that the half-faced child is trying to communicate an important piece of information. When Fiona figures out what this is, the reader will be as surprised and blown away as Fiona. Not all of the questions will be answered when you’ve finished reading, which is why Auntie M can’t wait for the next Fiona Griffiths novel. The author’s note at the end (don’t cheat and read it first; it will spoil the ending for you) assures that this character will be one you’re going to follow.

 

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