Reading a police procedural typically demands a great deal of patience on the part of the reader. That’s natural enough. Police work itself is said to be mostly drudgery. Some police-centric novels avoid the tedium of unrelieved digging and culling through often-irrelevant detail by shifting the point of view from the investigators to other characters. Other authors interleave chapters in the present tense with flashbacks to more eventful times in the past—or write about several unconnected investigations simultaneously. After all, writing about boring police work must be boring.
In the absence of these devices, a straightforward police procedural that unfolds in chronological order can prove to be as boring as police work, regardless of how intriguing the mystery itself might be. Unfortunately, that’s the case with An Accidental Death, the first of eight books in Peter Grainger’s series of DC Smith Investigations. From time to time, Smith does reflect on his own previous experiences, but it’s not enough to relieve the monotony.
An Accidental Death (DC Smith #1) by Peter Grainger (2013) 234 pages ★★★☆☆
The mystery that unfolds in An Accidental Death is, in fact, fascinating. A 17-year-old boy is found dead on a river in rural England. He appears to have hit his head on something while swimming and suffered a fatal injury. But Detective Sergeant DC Smith doubts the death is accidental. The boy was swimming toward a man in a canoe speeding down the river. Eventually, after much too long, it becomes clear that the man in the canoe was Bosnian, and his trip down the river was in some way connected with a war crime there in the early 1990s when British troops were stationed in the country as peacekeepers.
Boring police work uncovers a greater crime than simple murder
It also emerges that the case now involves not just the local police but Special Branch (the intelligence arm of Britain’s national police) and elements of the British Army as well. What was in truth an accidental death now helps uncover a much greater crime than simple murder. Q.E.D. A more skillful novelist could have made a brilliant book out of this. As a matter of fact, the story could be the basis of a superior film. But adapting this book to a screenplay would require the writer to take a lot of liberties.
About the author
Peter Grainger has published eight DC Smith novels as well as a single book in another detective series as well as three other novels under a different name. They’re all available for Amazon’s Kindle, and the DC Smith series is available in Audible Audio editions as well. There appear to be no editions in print.
For additional reading
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- 20 outstanding detective series from around the world.
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