I’ve been a fan of Bill Slider since the very first book in the series, Orchestrated Death. The plots are convoluted, the supporting characters are endearing & Bill himself is a terrific detective hero. In the first book, all those years ago, Bill was in a comfortable but boring marriage with two children. His job was his life. On that first case, he meets Joanna, musician & friend of the victim. Bill & Joanna fell in love & their relationship has been one of the strengths of the series.
Now, in Body Line, they’re still together & the parents of young George. Bill’s father has moved in with them & he’s a great addition to the cast. Bill’s offsider, Jim Atherton, is Bill’s opposite in nearly every way. Sartorially splendid, fastidious &, until recently, a man with a talent for attracting women but unable to commit. Now, though, he’s in a happy relationship with journalist Emily. My favourite character though is Slider’s boss, Porson, who makes Mrs Malaprop sound ordinary. His speech is littered with phrases like “It’s hard evidence butters the parsnips”, “Hoist with his own canard” & “Isn’t there any light at the end of the funnel?” The whole book is littered with puns (including chapters titled Witless for the Prosecution & Who Dares Whinge) & it moves at a cracking pace. I finished it in two sittings, I just couldn’t put it down. I wish I could read these books more slowly as I’ve got at least a year to wait for the next one.
The plot of Body Line is suitably devious & littered with red herrings. David Rogers is found shot dead early one morning in the hallway of his luxurious house. His girlfriend heard the shot, caught a glimpse of the back of the gunman’s head & escaped by dropping over the balcony. Rogers was a doctor who had at least two girlfriends who really knew very little about him. He was rich, handsome & charming. He lived the lifestyle of a consultant but no one in his life seemed to know exactly where he worked or what field he was in. He had no family & an ex-wife who seemed glad to have seen the last of him.
As Slider discovers more girlfriends who all thought they were the only one & realises that ex-wife Amanda Sturgess & her partner may have had a financial reason for wishing David dead, the motives for murder start to pile up. The murder looked like a contract killing but who would be able to arrange that? The questions about where the victim’s money came from when he didn’t seem to have a job & what he did on his weekly trips to Southwold lead Slider & his team into a murky world of smuggling & another side of David Rogers’s secret life.
The Bill Slider books are perfect for anyone who enjoys British police procedurals with humour & great plots. Meeting up with Bill, Joanna, Atherton, Porson & the rest of the firm at Shepherd’s Bush police station is a real treat.