Flicking through NetGalley as I do on a far too regular basis I came across The Thirteenth Coffin, recognising the author’s name from the excellent non-fiction Silent Witnesses, an engaging read on the history of forensics, that I read a couple of years ago, I decided to try this fiction novel, the fourth featuring DCI Mark Lapslie.
Nothing whets my appetite when it comes to serial killers than one that has a novel method, motivation or detective. This book seemed to fit the bill, the police realise they may have a serial killer on their hands when on investigating the death of a tramp in an old disused Cold War Bunker the police find twelve coffins and twelve dolls – some of the dolls are in the coffin but not all. The dolls, made of papier-mache with wax heads seem to represent jobs or hobbies so there are among others a fireman, a teacher, a bride, a general and a nurse. It looks like someone wants twelve people dead. And then a bride is shot on her wedding day…
The investigation is underway by DCI Lapslie and his team which includes Emma Bradbury as they try to find a link between the victims past and present – the reader gets some insight from details about those who died earlier in excerpts that are given throughout the book. As a twist on the drunk and miserable detective Mark Lapslie is a man suffering from synaesthesia (the rare neurological condition that causes his brain to crosswire his senses), something which was initially interesting but I’m afraid I found the descriptions of voices as tastes and the logistics of communicating with his team broke the story up without adding a great deal in return.
The plotting was superb, I really liked the way the author took his inspiration from the mini coffins found at Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh during the 19th century and used it to create a story which had a more credible than most motive for murder, one where for once all the victims weren’t beautiful young women. Unusually I cottoned onto this motive fairly early on in the book which took away some of the admiration of the detective’s deductive skills but there was still plenty of drama to keep me going until the end especially as that was only one piece of the jigsaw that needed completing.
I think this would make a great crime drama for TV; Nigel McCrery has written for many crime series on TV including Silent Witness and New Tricks but I’m not convinced that the protagonist translates as well onto the page, the sights and sounds would be much more effective with some dramatic music and other visual special effects with a spooky voice-over than being told that this man’s voice tastes like petrol or this person ’has a voice like soothing chamomile tea with honey’ An enjoyable enough crime thriller which despite the high body count didn’t have me wincing at endless descriptions of unnecessary violence but sadly not one that had me on the edge of my seat either.
The Thirteenth Coffin will be published on 31 December 2015 by Quercus books who were kind enough to allow me to read this book in return for my honest opinion.