Dead and Buried Review
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For Deputy Chief Constable Bob Skinner, now might not be the best time to head down to London for some top-secret business. After all, he’s in the process of going through a divorce and preparing to be a single dad once again. There’s also a lot of shuffling going on in his department, which he’s trying to manage from a distance. And his daughter, Alex, has been getting some disturbing phone calls that may or may not be related to the business he’s working on.

But Bob Skinner’s story is just a small part of the plot of Dead and Buried. While Bob heads for London, the Chief Constable, Sir James Proud, decides to do a little detective work of his own. He’s contacted by Trudi Friend, a woman who’s searching for her mother, a woman named Annabelle Gentle. Mrs. Friend has never met her mother, who had her put up for adoption not long after she was born. But Trudi now has reason to look into her family history—and she’s discovered that her mother has been missing for 40 years. The man she was supposedly about to marry, Claude Bothwell, had been a teacher at the school that Sir James had attended, so she figures Sir James can somehow help.

Meanwhile, detectives are investigating the attempted robbery of bookmaker Gary Starr, who admits to chopping off the finger of the man who tried to rob him. But the robbery investigation becomes a homicide investigation when detectives find Starr brutally murdered in his home. And when they go looking for clues to his murder, they find that Starr may have been involved in something a lot bigger than just taking bets.

To begin (and to be fair), I need to explain that this is Jardine’s 16th Bob Skinner novel—and it’s the first that I’ve read. And that’s most likely where my problems with this book lie. Since I haven’t read the previous 15, I didn’t come in knowing the characters—or their stories—and I found it incredibly difficult to keep up. I couldn’t tell the characters apart, and I didn’t known any of the background information—which especially comes into play in the case of Skinner’s top-secret mission, which closely relates to plotlines from previous novels.

Perhaps, if I’d understood the characters and their stories, Dead and Buried would have been less of a slow, clunky read. But I also found that the build-up was especially sluggish. Skinner, for instance, doesn’t actually arrive in London until page 128. While regular readers may be interested from the start, it took a long time for this one to catch my interest—and even when it did, it didn’t always manage to hold my interest. Some of the plotlines are interesting—but not all of them. Others just don’t seem to fit. And the way the story jumps around, it’s difficult to keep them all straight.

Some authors write series that still basically work as standalone reads. This isn’t one of them. While it’s clear that several books’ worth of build-up comes to a climax in this novel, first-time readers won’t appreciate it as much as regulars will. So if you’re thinking about checking out Jardine’s Skinner series, you’d be wise to start at the beginning.

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