First Sentence: Slider jumped into the car, and Atherton peeled away from the kerb and back in the traffic in a movement so sleek and smooth, a dolphin would have tried to mate with it.
The body of a famous literary critic is found in the cellar of the construction site next door to his home. Although DCI Bill Slider's Borough Commander would like a quick verdict of "accidental death" to close the case and gives strict orders that unknown Calliope Hunt is not to be questioned, Slider isn't convinced the death was an accident. A plethora of possible suspect means Slider and his team have their work cut out for them, while Bill is also concerned about his wife and truly dealing with being a father.
The very first sentence demonstrates why Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is such a pleasure to read. For having a way with words, she has no equal. Her metaphors are wonderful and perfect—'One hundred-and fifty-plus years represents a lot of history for a building, and in value and status these had gone up and down like a Harrods lift at sale time.' She slips in delightful bits of humor along the way—"'I expect you're wondering why you're here,' said Carpenter. Existentialism at this hour of the morning? Various facetious answers flitted through Slider's mind…"And then there's Porson, Slider's boss, and the king of a malaprop—'Too many thieves spoil the broth. It all gets … wafty.'
That CH-E has set the story amongst the world of publishing is fun. One does suspect that the characters represent people she has known, or that they are an amalgamation of them. She really does provide a fascinating look into that world. Harrod-Eagles is also very good with details and with setting the scene. She describes the location in which the characters find themselves placing one right alongside them.
The "what's wrong with this picture" scenarios are so well done and can cause one to consider the details of one's own, everyday life. It's the forensic details that determine the path of the plot—it is a mystery, after all, and the devils-advocate banter between Slider and Atherton is clever and more realistic, in some ways than presenting the information as the internal musings of one character. One can also appreciate that although Slider and Atherton are the leads, there is a realism in the way Slider's team is an ensemble cast with each having their role in the investigation.
The day-to-day aspects of the story are satisfying and understandable; possible problems at home, possible reassignment at work. These are things to which one can easily relate. CH-E also presents a very realistic view of a police investigation as often being a hard slog of minutia and focusing on the mundane. How well done is it that when the killer is exposed, one almost feels sympathy for them.
"Headlong" isn't a book of gunfire or car chases, but of great characters and solid police work with an ending to make one smile.
HEADLONG (PolProc-Bill Slider-England-Contemp) - VG
Harrod-Eagles, Cynthia – 11th in series
Severn House – 2018