Publication: Rat Tales Ltd
Published: 2nd November 2020
When I was first offered this book by the publisher I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t read the earlier books in the series and had never come across Rod Humphris or his hero Simon Ellice before. Having been assured I could enjoy this as a stand-alone novel I decided to have a go and read something out of my comfort zone. Simon retires from life in the city back to the Hampshire village he lived in when he was a child. He finds solace and comfort in the change of pace, and starts to work on a local farm where he finds some peace and tranquility. However, he seems to be the sort of character that trouble follows and it’s not long before he uncovers a mystery with its roots back in the London underworld he left behind. When old friends go missing he has to use his skills to investigate, finding murder, poison and pagan rituals threatening those closest to him. In what is billed as Ellice’s most challenging case, this is a fast paced novel with themes of sacrifice and objectification, that go to the very heart of our society.
This really was a novel of contrasts in settings, pace and structure. Simon, or Si to his friends, has been living mainly on his yacht – Polly, moored at a London dockside. In this novel we see quite a contrast between his previous life based in London and the new life he is trying to create in Hampshire. London is dark, murky and noisy in contrast to the peaceful pastoral scenes of the countryside. It pits something wholesome and gentle against a more aggressive and dangerous city where Si liked to party in nightclubs with beautiful women hanging on his arm and his every word. These two settings are in a way linked to Si’s character, especially as he is getting older. He has a darker, more cynical side that is used to dealing with the criminal underworld, but there is also a softer, more restful side that wants to calm down and this gentler side comes out more as he works on his friend’s farm. The London chapters are more punchy and fast moving, whereas the countryside sections have more flow and a much slower pace. The plot revolves around missing aristocratic women, who have developed drug habits before disappearing, then turning up dead. I don’t want to ruin the story with spoilers so that’s all I will divulge. but it is an exciting plot that really held my attention throughout.
There were elements of Si’s character and his adventures that reminded me of Bond, but Bond in a darker story with a dash of black humour thrown in too. I wasn’t sure if I liked him or not in parts, but there’s no arguing with how brilliant he is at his job. I love characters like this who are flawed, perhaps even difficult, but ruthlessly good at what they do. I wasn’t sure if I wanted him as a friend, but I would want him on my side if I was in trouble. I found it interesting that unlike other high octane thrillers, the women were just as strong as the men. In some cases they were just as crazy too. I also enjoyed the fact that Si now works for Whitehall, so could be seen as part of the establishment, but some of his more questionable methods could raise a few eyebrows. The author kept drip feeding just enough information to keep the reader interested, but never enough to work out what would happen. The ending left me thinking about it and still making connections in my mind. This was more of an action story than I would normally have chosen, but I did enjoy it enough to look for the author’s earlier novels. It was intelligent, exciting and at times darkly humorous. Definitely worth seeking out for those who enjoy crime thrillers and for those who want to try some thrilling action and escapism.
Meet The Author
In his office you will find Rod typing, flanked by two enormous dogs, and surrounded by the ephemera he has collected on his travels. “I always read. Since I can remember. First Asterix, then Willard Price, then Conan Doyle, then everything else. I’ve had a paperback jammed into my back pocket most days of my life. I remember wanting to write a book when I was about 12 and wanting to put everything into it” “I’ve read every kind of book, but the ones I love most are stories of adventure, so that’s what I write. I’ve put thousands of hours into learning to do it well. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve developed my own voice and my own style. I spend so much time with Si, my main character, that he seems as real to me as anyone I know. In some cases, more so. I’m happiest and most productive when travelling about in my battered old truck with a canoe on top and a dog in the back.” Rod Humphris is the winner of N. N. Light Best Fiction Award 2016 @Rod_Humphris