Title: Killing the Fatted Calf
Author: Susan Kelly
ISBN: 0749005785, Allison and Busby, 2002
Genre: Police Procedural, #2 Superintendent Gregory Summers mystery
First Line: A telephone ringing at midnight seldom brought good news, or not to a policeman.
Since the series of brutal wars in the Balkans in the 1990s, the influx of illegal immigrants to the UK has been an escalating problem, and Superintendent Gregory Summers of the Thames Valley police finds himself in the middle of Operation Cuckoo, an effort by police to stem the flood of illegals by finding the people smuggling them into the country.
Illegals aren't the only people Summers finds. He also finds a childhood friend, Elise Weissman, who's now a wealthy widow. Thirty years ago the young Elise gave up a son for adoption, and now Anthony Lucas has tracked down his birth mother. The reunion is tentative at first, and as long-held secrets start coming to light, Elise begins to fear for her family. And does the death of a story-telling old man in a nearby hotel tie into any of these secrets?
I had enjoyed the first book in the series, The Lone Traveller, but discovered that this second book is very difficult to come by over here in the US. I was happy to finally get my hands on a copy. The strength of the book is in its characterizations, led by Summers himself. Monroe, an officer on the fast track to promotion, doesn't quite know what to think of his new boss:
He wasn't sure, either, what to make of Gregory Summers, who was so different from his old guv'nor. In the three weeks he'd been commuting to Newbury he had yet to hear him bawl anyone out, for one thing, or reduce them to a quivering wreck with the sharp edge of his tongue. He was also a lot more hands-on than his former boss who'd seldom set foot outside his office except to go to a Rotary dinner.
The plot is tightly woven and the pacing quick. Summers has his hands so full trying to piece together evidence for the old man's death in the hotel as well as Operation Cuckoo that he doesn't have time to spare for Elise and her problems until it's too late. The characters of Summers, Elise Weissman, and Anthony Lucas are well-drawn and really grabbed my attention.
Kelly succeeded in keeping me occupied with the main plot lines that as a result one of the secondary ones held quite a surprise for me. I should have seen it coming, but I didn't. So much of Killing the Fatted Calf was serious and rather grim, so the brief splashes of humor throughout were welcome and even funnier than they would have been in a book with a much lighter tone.
I don't remember how I managed to stumble across this series, but I'm certainly glad I did. I'm very happy to know that I have other Gregory Summers books waiting for me on my shelves.
[Source: Paperback Swap.]