Publication Date: August 1, 2016
When Vivian Morse, a social worker, is found beaten to death in the woods, it seems an open and shut case. Obviously, Vivian’s estranged husband is her killer. What seems to be isn’t always the case when one of Vivian’s co-workers goes missing. Can D.C.I. Hatherall solve the case of Who Killed Vivien Morse?
Who Killed Vivien Morse is the fourth book in the D.C.I. Hatherall series. The author, Diana J. Febry, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
Who Killed Vivien Morse is a police procedural set in rural England. D.C.I. Hatherall is Lucas Davenport without the sense of style and with a less settled life at home. Hatherall is self-deprecating and tough without becoming hard. He’s over 40, worried about staying attractive for his decade younger wife and he is not above vanity. He has a special working relationship with his partner, the awkwardly unique Fiona. He’s not afraid to hide from the frequently visiting public. Got a druid looking in your window? Hatherall will hear it but only if he’s too slow when heading to his office. Find a dead girl in the woods? If she’s dead, it surely can’t matter if he takes the time to drink a cup of coffee. Hatherall is a cop who cares and takes his job seriously, but he’s also human. Febry uses his humanity to ease the reader into a man whose life is about to get very serious.
While the tone of the main character is reminiscent of John Sandford, the cast of characters surrounding him would be at home in the work of Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm). Glenys, the druid, and Colin both fit in a certain niche in fiction but feel fresh. The husband who seems the obvious suspect is odious and leaves Fiona feeling unsettled in a way that is authentic and speaks to the reader of the impact of domestic control. Despite the weighty tone of the subject, Febry uses her less-connected characters and setting to lighten the dark and deadly story. We never lose sight of the fact that someone has died and all character roles and plot roads lead to that crime, but there are moments that divert the focus. Life is not all downs even in the worst of times.
There are times in Who Killed Vivien Morse, where the story seems to divert from course, but the story is one that the author has crafted so that all characters and their experiences intertwine to culminate to the stunning ending. Though the culmination of the story seems to come from nowhere, once the killer is known, it all makes sense and highlights the brilliance of the author’s craftsmanship and her attention to detail. You may feel lost reading the story but there is a moment of clarity. The editing of Who Killed Vivien Morse is very clean. There are a few errors I noticed, but they were isolated and rare. The flow of the tale was easy and the characters so engaging that it was difficult to put down. It is very much an English read with characters having a “fringe” (we’d say “bangs” here) and wearing wax jackets, tweed and wellies. The slang is not enough to throw anyone off who casually watches BBC America or BBC Canada.
Who Killed Vivien Morse is a fresh police procedural that is wonderfully written and easily stands alone from the series.