All The Books I Can Read

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Underland – Ed Chatterton

on August 19, 2013

UnderlandUnderland (Frank Keane #2)
Ed Chatterton
Random House AU
2013, 448p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

When newly promoted DCI Frank Keane is called to a gruesome murder scene, at first look it seems like a classic murder suicide. Paul and Maddy Peters are both dead, Maddy tied up and stabbed to death in the bedroom, Paul hanging in the garage. Then it comes out that the couple’s teenage son Nicky is missing and the garage crime scene is obviously more murder than suicide. Is Nicky a victim and kidnapped or possibly murdered? Or is he the vicious killer and on the run? It will the job of Frank and his team to find out.

Nicky’s holiday job on the set of a movie that’s being filmed locally draws attention and Frank cannot discount some of the players as possible suspects. He interviews those working on the film in different roles and immediately begins to focus on one person, an actor. Frank sees immediately that he’s playing a role, even whilst being interviewed. Frank looks into his eyes and knows he’s found the killer – but he doesn’t have any evidence. And with pressure from his superiors, he’s forced to not only let his suspect go after questioning, but also forced to stand by and watch while he leaves the country. There have been more deaths and Frank thinks he has the perpetrator. He knows it, in his bones, even if no one else he works with seems to feel the same way.

One mistake by the suspect leads Keane halfway around the world to California in the United States, on a mission to track his killer down and get the evidence he needs to get him extradited back to England and put away for good. But Frank is only just beginning to understand exactly what he’s dealing with – what sort of money, what sort of power lies behind the man that is like Teflon. Frank could prevent an unbelievable crime on foreign soil, the sort of crime that no one believes could possibly be about to happen right under their noses. Or he could lose his own life, by poking around where it’s been made clear that he isn’t wanted.

Underland is the second novel revolving around Frank Keane, a detective attached to the Merseyside Investigative Unit in Liverpool, England. In this book he has recently been promoted to the rank of DCI – Detective Chief Inspector. I haven’t read the first book, despite my best efforts to track it down before I had to finish this book and post a review for the publisher. To be 100% honest, I believe that reading the first book might not be strictly necessary but it would greatly enhance the reading experience of this book. There are references made to events that happened recently, there are glimpses of relationships that seem to have been already established in the first book, Frank’s former boss appears in this novel but I’m unaware of what happened to him and how Frank came to be promoted to his current role. I wish I had of been able to read A Dark Place To Die first and I’d definitely recommend that anyone who wants to read this one, track that one down first in order to get the background information and set the scene better.

However, despite my lack of background knowledge, I did immediately find myself drawn into the story. Frank is a world-weary sort of detective, struggling with the end of his marriage, not quite sure of how he fits in with his new role and how he wants to run things. He has a “moment” during this case where he looks into someone’s eyes and knows – knows – without a shadow of a doubt that he has found his killer. Not everyone believes him, in fact his colleagues tend to disagree with him and think that the suspect lies closer to home, but Frank is certain. It was interesting reading the book from his point of view about this because it made me think of how often this probably happens – maybe not the ‘know-in-their-bones’ feeling, but how often police and detectives are confident they know who has committed a crime, but they do not have the evidence to prove it or what they haven’t isn’t good enough. I wonder how often they watch people they feel are guilty walk, just as Frank Keane does in this book. He has so little on the suspect and when he finally seems to catch a break, when it looks like the killer might have slipped up, there are blocks and threats and technical difficulties at every turn. Yet he persists, calling in his former boss as a partner, going off-grid almost, to investigate the suspect himself, determined to turn up something on him, no matter that he’s being repetitively told to go home and leave it be by the US law enforcement organisations.

Ed Chatteron seems to excel when it comes to both character and setting – I very much liked the portrayal of not only Keane but also his previous boss, Koopman. I don’t know much about Liverpool, it’s not somewhere I’ve ever been but there’s no doubt that the author has a good knowledge of both the city itself, its culture and the type of people that can be found there. Likewise when the story shifted to (briefly) the northern part of NSW and then California, each setting was different and had an air of authenticity. The story itself requires some suspension of disbelief (something that’s no uncommon when reading crime novels) but the characters and the settings are so strong that this is quite easy to do.

I found Underland a very engaging story written from a different and interesting point of view that definitely made me think and apply it to real life situations. The only thing was, I found the ending a bit too neat. The rest of the book seemed more true to the gritty reality of life but the end left everything tied up in a little bow, however there’s something as well that will make the next novel with Frank very interesting. I will be keen to see where Ed Chatterton takes him next.


Book #217 of 201

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