The Murder Bag
by Tony Parsons
Twenty years ago seven rich, privileged students became friends at their exclusive private school, Potter’s Field. Now they have started dying in the most violent way imaginable.
Detective Max Wolfe has recently arrived in the Homicide division of London’s West End Central, 27 Savile Row.
Soon he is following the bloody trail from the backstreets and bright lights of the city, to the darkest corners of the internet and all the way to the corridors of power.
As the bodies pile up, Max finds the killer’s reach getting closer to everything – and everyone – he loves.
Soon he is fighting not only for justice, but for his own life…
Hugo Buck, an investment banker, is found with his throat cut open in gruesome fashion. Then a homeless man, Adam Jones, is murdered in the same way. At first it looks as if they have nothing in common until the same photograph of seven students at an exclusive private school turns up in each of the men’s possessions. As the other students in the photograph are being picked off and murdered Detective Max Wolfe has to find the killer..and soon.
This book started off so well with the prologue depicting the murder of a young woman which is both shocking and disturbing. If the rest of the book had concentrated on the crime it would have made a much better book. Tony Parsons usual fare is based on relationships, so I suppose it’s fairly natural for him to want to include a lot of his detective’s relationships in this book. Unfortunately the relationships are wholly sentimental and do not work in the midst of a crime book. Whole chapters devoted to his daughter and their dog. Picking a fight with a man because he’s laughing at his dog. It was really wearing. I like some background on the protagonists, you need to get to know them but this was just mawkish sentimentality.
I also had a large problem with one aspect of his relationship with his wife. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but we are given information at the start of the book that strongly suggests one thing and your feelings are in accordance with what has been suggested. Then later on in the book it turns out that it is something else entirely and I was not impressed. I love twists and turns in a book but this was neither; I felt this was dishonest and the character was deceitful for no reason whatsoever. The issue had nothing to do with the crime and could easily have been set out honestly from the start. I lost any empathy I had and really couldn’t be bothered with Wolfe’s domestic situation after that. It may have bothered me more than it should but that’s the way it is.
I did enjoy the crime story. There was decent plotting and lots of real twists and turns that were well done. There was lots of research into police procedurals, which really didn’t all have to be transferred to the page: trying to find the knife used in the attacks was long-winded. The detail about The Black Museum, an actual museum of criminal artifacts in London, was really interesting.
Overall, the crime story was enjoyable but be aware there is a lot of background sentimentality and if you can cope with that it’s not a bad read.
I give it three stars but it’s probably nearer two and a half for me.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for sending me the copy.