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He died with his eyes open

This is the first of Derek Raymond's Factory novels following the investigations of an unnamed police sergeant working on "Unexplained Deaths", a department of the Metropolitain Police that takes care of deaths of lowlifes rather than more attention grabbing ones. Our seargeant works alone with only two points of contact with the rest of the force, his superior officer and Inspector Bowman who works on proper murders. The first seems merely a procedural relationship, the second is antagonistic although this seems to underlie respect on both sides. But mostly, the sergeant spends his time with the lowlifes he's investigating. He knows how they work and how to get what he wants. He's a man who knows his strengths and limitations, in almost a Zen way.

Not a lot actually happens in this novel. A man has been murdered and dumped by a road in West London. His body has been beaten with hammers and is a gruesome mess. The sergeant follows around the wreck of the man's life and listens to a series of autobiographical tapes. There isn't much of mystery, the sergeant knows who did it, although he won't say outright but waits for the criminals to show themselves.

As such it's a strange book, it seems almost autobiographical, the policeman and the victim seeming to be facets of Raymond's (aka Robin Cook's) life, moving as he did in different classes. It's a good read that avoids crime fiction cliché and draws into the grimy underworld of London. It's also strangely out of time, although written in the 80s it could easily be set in the 50s, but with reel to reel instead of casettes.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
ninthcouncil
Jan. 22nd, 2010 10:48 am (UTC)
Funny, I've not read any of his work, but I'd also got the impression they were older than they actually are.
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