Author: Rae Stoltenkamp
Finished on: 28 November 2016
Where did I get this book: Sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review
About a year ago I was having a lovely lazy morning with my daughter. We were looking for somewhere for breakfast (and more importantly, nice coffee) along Sheffield’s Abbeydale Road.
We wandered into a too cool for school, but small, bakery. Where people who don’t know each other share tables. Eeek. We sat down with the people who looked least likely to be annoying, a couple of women. I wasn’t really in the mood for chatting with strangers as I was spending time with my girl. However, one of the ladies was reading a book. I seem to remember it was something about a dragon. By Kenneth Graham. Oooooo.
My daughter loves reading as much as I do, and with the universal awkwardness-overcomer of nosy bookworm-ness we asked, “Is it good?”
This led to a lovely chat over breakfast that ended in exchanging contact details. The reading lady had set herself a challenge to read 100 books in a year, and was blogging about it. All very serendipitous. We got in touch online, I have guest posted on her blog, and then about a month ago she got in touch again. This reading lady is also a writing lady, and Stoltenkamp asked if I would read and review her new book Six Dead Men.
Six Dead Men. Couldn’t really sound any more up my street. So I agreed with pleasure.
With this book Stoltenkamp has hit on a winning formula of a detective story infused with the supernatural. Our engaging hero, Detective Inspector Robert Deed, is able to tell at a glance if someone is guilty. Which means for him the usual whodunit of detective fiction is replaced with a howcanIproveit? And in a neat inversion of the conventions of the genre, in this case Deed knows who the killer is but wishes he didn’t as he gets increasingly close to Madison Bricot, the unwitting, and unwilling, femme fatale of the story.
There is a lot going on in Six Dead Men, as we are given access to the inner thoughts of each of the six men of the title. They are each depraved in their own way; Bricot really is one unlucky lady when it comes to the men she meets. And the majority of the story is told from the perspective of Deed or Bricot as they each attempt to come to terms with the implications of the truth behind the deaths, and their feelings for one another.
As the narrative progresses, a real strength is its exploration of different attitudes towards the use of psychic insight in policing. Stoltenkamp successfully avoids cliches*, whilst also showing a realistic portrayal of the scepticism towards this work. I enjoyed being in a world populated by characters who consider psychic insight to be a normal part of day-to-day life; a refreshing change from the standard of one ‘weird’ character who is disbelieved, and ridiculed or pitied, by the majority.
This is an impressive book which twists and turns its way to a satisfying conclusion. And maybe there really is something a little bit spooky at work here – can it really be a coincidence that I sat next to someone in a bakery who blogs about books and writes stories about mysterious deaths and the supernatural?
*Sorry, still no accents. Not even with the Alt idea.