Back-Slash – Bill Kitson

You have to mark up Bill Kitson as a prolific writer.  Within the space of only two and a half years Robert Hale has published five novels in his Detective Inspector Mike Nash series.  A sixth, Identity Crisis, is due in May 2012.  Kitson has built a loyal and growing following, so what does the series offer and Back-Slash in particular?

If you are tormented by the abundance of contemporary crime novels that invoke violence to the extent they verge on the horror genre, then Kitson’s series may be one for you.  The Mike Nash novels are contemporary police procedurals set in north Yorkshire, much in the tradition of Colin Dexter’s Morse and R D Wingfield’s Frost, and with a setting true to its heart.  Back-Slash opens with a troublesome backstory: a woman is killed in a car park in 1999 and the following year sees her husband, Alan Marshall convicted of her murder.  But by 2006 the verdict is set aside by the Court of Appeal following the presentation of findings of inconsistencies in the original evidence.

DI Mike Nash’s immediate problem in the policing of his area is the lack of available staff due to a rampant flu bug over the festive season.  DC Lisa Andrews is called back from an attachment to Yorkshire Central and receives a call out to a case on arrival at Helmsdale.  Andrews is sidetracked by the apparent dangerous driving of a Land Rover on her way, only to discover a seriously injured man at the wheel, following an accident with a chainsaw.  However, her connection is not severed when she leaves him safely at the hospital, for the following morning she learns that the hospital can find no trace of him in NHS records based on the identity details provided via his vehicle registration.  The Mr Myers in the hospital bed eventually agrees to explain his chosen anonymity to Andrews when he leaves the hospital.

Following New Year’s Eve celebrations, a Leeds couple is found in their suite at The Golden Bear: both with their throats cut.  DC Andrews finds her connection to Mr Myers continues when he is linked to the murders and, under the direction of DI Mike Nash, it takes some unexpected and unorthodox turns in the ensuing investigation…

Interspersed with occasional telephone dialogues between a ‘Mr Jones’ and a ‘Mr Brown’, it is obvious that a hit man is contracted to protect the economic interests of major project.  Back-Slash’s plot then enters the arena of greed and fraud in property deals and local government, and it’s a tightly plotted novel.  For a main protagonist, DI Mike Nash takes a bit of a back seat in this novel, bringing DC Andrews to the fore.  Neither is Andrews the only strong female character in Back-Slash, with Nash at the behest of a female boss who is to police management what Tesco’s demographic stocking plans and logistics are to supermarket distribution and sales.  Where Nash may not be a maverick copper per se, he is prepared to think creatively in his investigation and employ a ‘maverick’ approach.  Back-Slash plays out a fine tune in this aspect which forms a great twist.

Kitson also deserves applause with Back-Slash for his depiction of a man’s (or woman’s) relationship to his (her) dog.  Expect your emotions to be prodded in more ways than one here.

Robert Hale is mainly a publisher of books for libraries in the UK.  Thus you will find Kitson on your local libraries’ shelves, but Back-Slash can also be purchased in HB format from Amazon. Previous novels Depth of Despair and Chosen are available from Amazon in Kindle format.

Kitson’s Nash series continues in the tradition of police procedurals that feed from the trough of realism over horror.  If that’s what you seek, you will find it here, plus a bevy of creative twists and creative police investigation techniques in the plotting.  Back-Slash provides a satisfying and enjoyable read on all those fronts, plus a big ‘thumbs up’ to women depicted as strong characters and not victims only.