The Dead House (Fiona Griffiths, #5) by Harry Bingham
The Dead House is a step away from my normal fantasy reading and takes me into the world of crime where DC Fiona Griffiths has a puzzling case before her. A body laid out peacefully in a dead house. And yet, no crime appears to have been committed.
I really enjoyed this book, much more than I expected to and that’s predominantly down to the main character DC Griffiths. I haven’t read the previous books in the series and so didn’t know whether I would struggle but this is well written and gives just enough information to allow you to pick up the previous trail without, I think, being over burdensome to readers who have read the first books in the series. DC Griffiths is an absolute breath of fresh air to read about… but I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself again!
The story begins, as I mentioned with a body being discovered laid out to rest in a Bier House. A bier house seems to have been a Victorian concept. Instead of laying bodies out in a casket in your parlour they were instead placed on a bier in a purpose made house within the grounds of a church prior to burial. Anyhow, from hereon we have a mystery body that needs identifying. On top of this as the story progresses the mystery becomes multi layered linking back to current and previous crimes in a really quite fascinating way and more than that we have a detective who simply won’t give up. DC Griffiths is like a dog with a bone – she gets an idea into her head and will go to all sorts of extremes to test it out – even if her methods are unorthodox. To be honest, I’m not an expert on police procedure so I can’t really tell you how closely or otherwise this sticks to the known procedures but I think I’m fairly safe to say that Griffiths breaks the mould.
Wales is the setting and it really lends itself to the story I thought. A beautiful place with remote villages, underground caves, a monastery straight out of a mediaeval era and quiet country roads! It really is a wonderful setting – it almost has a gothic feel to it – which sounds quite ridiculous and implausible and yet the remote farmhouses, churches and certain other aspects that I won’t go into really do give it that feel.
Now, I could go into the characters but to be honest my main interest is Griffiths. She’s such an unusual detective – if I could compare her to anybody – and again quite ridiculous and implausible – it would probably be Sherlock Holmes! And the reason I say that – and believe me these stories are really nothing like the Holmes stories! – is Fiona’s attention to detail and the way in which she reaches her decisions. Also, she’s something of a loner, frequently putting herself into situations where you just want to slap her for wandering off on her own without any thought of danger. Griffiths clearly has issues and at the moment I don’t really feel that I have a handle on everything that’s going on, but I have jumped in here at No.5 so haven’t had the benefit of the prior back stories – that being said I really do think this can be read as a standalone. I didn’t experience any difficulty at all picking up on things as the author manages to convey quite easily some of the past history. As a baby, Fiona was abandoned and eventually adopted by the person whose car she was left in. Her adoptive family seem to have a criminal background (well, the father at least) and so her current vocation sits a little uneasily or at least leads to people being tight lipped about things. Fiona of course is trying to pry out information about her background and slowly and surely is putting together a picture – it’s a picture that’s she’s probably going to regret seeing (at least that’s the vibe I got) but, as I said above, she’s nothing if not determined. I just really liked Fiona – she’s very singular, she doesn’t react maybe quite the way you would expect, she’s not particularly tactile or sociable but in actual fact she does care very strongly about others – whether they’re dead or alive – and this is what I liked in her.
This really is a gripping tale that throws all sorts into the mix. Highly entertaining and, yes, I admit, a slowish start, but once it got going I was totally hooked.
I really don’t have any criticisms. I really enjoyed this story for the mystery aspects that blended the mediaeval with the present day and for the central character who was so original to read. This is certainly a series that I would like to continue to read, I admit that I probably won’t work my way backwards because I think having read certain elements of what’s already taken place the first four books would probably lose a little bit of their mystery – but, yeah, I’m definitely intrigued enough to pick up more stories about DC Griffiths.
I received a copy courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.