The Lakeland Murders are set in Cumbria, the beautiful Lake District in the north west of England. But if the setting is wonderfully scenic the stories are hard-nosed and gripping.
They are police procedurals and have a very contemporary ‘of their time’ feel as the author reflects the issues of the day such as the squeeze on police funding and tackling such tricky topics as county lines (where children and young people are used by criminal gangs to sell drugs in small towns and villages).
To quote the author: ‘If plot is what piques our interest in a crime novel it’s the characters that keep us reading’. The real strength of this series – and indeed of all this author’s other series – lies in the characters. Characters such as:
DI Andy Hall – Andy is not a man of action and well into middle age (he is 48 at the start of the series), but he has a high EQ as well as a high IQ and that makes him able to both empathise and to deduce. He is known to be cleverer than his superiors and gets into trouble for being so.
Jane Francis – who joins the team at the beginning of the series from her previous career as a research scientist and is a counterpoint to Andy Hall. He works more on the classic ‘gut’ backed up by police work where Jane is trained in all the latest methods of crime-busting.
Ian Mann – ex-marine special forces, Ian is the tough guy who is from the same kind of background as most of the criminals he has to deal with but chose a very different path in life.
Sandy Smith – the go-to CSI for our Kendal cops who is best approached bearing coffee and doughnuts unless you want your head bitten off.
Abla Khan – who joins the series later on and has both an incisive mind and a fearless approach to getting into dangerous situations.
The books are a wonderful mix of mystery, action, human engagement and humour and you read on as much to follow the characters from book to book as to enjoy each case, all of which are complex, multilayered and thought-provoking.
The writing is not pristine. There are faults and flaws you might not find in books produced by a publisher. Typos occasionally creep on the page, now and then we hop heads and sometimes you wonder why when only two people are in a conversation they have to keep calling each other by name. But these are truly minor issues set against the sweep of the drama and mystery.
If you enjoy whodunnits and great characters this is a series you should take a closer look at.
You can start the series with any book, but the best introduction to the series is probably through the series prequel The Two Towns which is novella length, and reading them in order gives the full sweep of the characters’ stories as well.