Death in Profile by Guy Fraser-Sampson – review

Published by Urbane Publications

Publication date – 18 March 2016

Source – review copy

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“The genteel façade of London’s Hampstead is shattered by a series of terrifying murders, and the ensuing police hunt is threatened by internal politics, and a burgeoning love triangle within the investigative team. Pressurised by senior officers desperate for a result a new initiative is clearly needed, but what?
Intellectual analysis and police procedure vie with the gut instinct of ‘copper’s nose’, and help appears to offer itself from a very unlikely source – a famous fictional detective. A psychological profile of the murderer allows the police to narrow down their search, but will Scotland Yard lose patience with the team before they can crack the case?
Praised by fellow authors and readers alike, this is a truly original crime story, speaking to a contemporary audience yet harking back to the Golden Age of detective fiction. Intelligent, quirky and mannered, it has been described as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’. Above it all hovers Hampstead, a magical village evoking the elegance of an earlier time, and the spirit of mystery-solving detectives.”

A series of vicious rapes and murders have been occurring in Hampstead and police fear a serial killer is on the loose. The old lead detective has been replaced by a younger fast track officer. Can the case be kick-started before another victim emerges?

This is a gentle read, by which I mean there are murders, though they are not described in a gruesome way, there isn’t any swearing, though the dialogue doesn’t seem any less real for the lack of it and there are no great chases or violent scenes. The narrative focuses on the police, which is not unexpected for a police procedural, but what is perhaps more apparent is that they seem to be the sole focus, the victims and the suspects are a much lesser presence on the page. It is set in the modern age but conversely has the feel that it is from a bygone time.

The plot is strong enough to drive the story, there is apparent solving of the case obviously not as watertight as expected as it comes part way through the novel. I did get the twist and work out the killer before the reveal but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story.

There were a couple of things that didn’t work as well for me one of these being the story involving the appearance of Peter Wimsey. I’ll admit I’ve never read any Dorothy L. Sayers so I’ve no idea if the references and Wimsey character were true to the original. For me, this part of the storyline seemed to set the story slightly off course as it emerged quite suddenly. Another aspect that jarred for me was the references to Karen’s looks. The police officer was frequently mentioned in references to her appearance and her legs and it lent an overtly sexist bent to the story. Had it only been mentioned once I think it probably would have washed over me but as it was the repetition made the matter stand out.

A gentle paced, interesting modern age novel with echoes of the golden age.

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