Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Picasso Scam by Stuart Pawson

Title: The Picasso Scam
Author: Stuart Pawson
ISBN: 0749083905, Allison & Busby, 2004
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 DI Charlie Priest mystery
Rating: A

First Line: Red was no longer my favourite colour.

With The Picasso Scam I once again found myself sampling a new-to-me series about which I've heard so many good things for years. If I intended having a tombstone, my epitaph would probably read "Here lies Cathy. She started 2,789 mystery series and finished 99 of them." On the surface that sounds rather bad, but I prefer to think that I've always got plenty to look forward to in my reading!

In this book I met Detective Inspector Charlie Priest of the Heckley nick (police station) in West Yorkshire. He's been an inspector for a record-breaking length of time because he can be somewhat unorthodox. (Not many police officers would chase a Rolls Royce down a country lane in their ancient, wheezing Cortina.)

A bit of sheep stealing leads Charlie to believe that a local businessman is involved in international art fraud, and once he realizes that doctored heroin also plays a part, there's nothing he won't do to bring the villains to justice.

One of the things I enjoyed so much in The Picasso Scam was Charlie himself. Being a detective inspector for so long has turned him into the fatherly eye of the Heckley nick:

Crime has no closed season, no bank holidays, no days off. We are busy round the clock. My job is to manage the troops, make sure the paperwork gets done properly and liaise in every direction at once. Meantime I like to get out on the streets as much as possible, which usually means in my own time. We all have our pet priorities, and mine, next to putting crooks behind bars, is looking after, developing and encouraging the lowly constables in my charge.

There is a feeling of family amongst the police officers in this book, which makes it different from most police procedurals I've read. These men have their quirks, but they all genuinely care for each other. This is a refreshing change from many similarly themed books which always seem to have a complete jerk in charge that everyone has to work around to get the job done.

There are also glimmers of humor in The Picasso Scam, as when Charlie meets a well-endowed receptionist and thinks, "Oh, to have the eyes of a chameleon, one to look here, the other to look there" or when he walks into a pub and observes "their pipe-smoke made the air so thick that the flies were hang-gliding." But along with the family spirit and humor, there is danger. Charlie is after a businessman with a shady past, and at first he doesn't realize to what lengths that person will go to stop the investigation.

Probably because he does spend so much time teaching the constables in his care, Charlie takes the time to explain to readers why his area of England is so rife with crime, and what happens when the police crack down on one area of crime, yet he never comes across as preachy.

Reading The Picasso Scam was a sort of lesson in crime given by an engaging copper who has his priorities straight. Charlie Priest is a man who observes much (he sits down for a chat with depressed secretaries and stops by the hospital to talk with a teenage drug user who's had a leg amputated), does much, and shares his knowledge and experience with others. It's the best way to survive, to enjoy the job, and to do that job well.

Bring on Charlie's next case! I'm looking forward to reading it.


  1. Great review! I really like the sound of this. And I particularly like the fact that it is based in England, as I can picture the settings better. I would love to read these books.

    Here is my latest post: Tuesday Teaser if you would like to have a look!

    Take care,


  2. Somehow I've missed this series completely! Thanks for bringing it to my attention, I'll keep my eye out for it.

  3. Gee thanks Cathy - another new (to me) author that I have added to my wish list. I'm supposed to be reducing the wishlist not adding to it but this sounds rather good.

  4. A good mystery with a bit of humor and the family feeling sounds like a good read. I haven't heard of this one so I will see if I can find it.

  5. I like the sound of this too. You're really thinking ahead by planning your headstone already!

  6. LOL!! Out tombstones could easily read the same. Sound like good series to add.

  7. Nice review! I've never heard of this series - will have to take a look for both me and my youngest daughter - she loves CSI books and mysteries.

  8. Sassy--I tend to read a lot of British mysteries. :)

    Laura--there are thousands of mystery series out there. It would be impossible to know about them all!

    Bernadette--I never try to reduce the wish list. Occasionally I do try to reduce the number of books that are finding their way into my home!

    Margot--Good luck!

    Kathy--I'm not thinking ahead. There's already a tombstone with my name on it back in Illinois. (I got outvoted.)

    Beth--This series starts out well, so I have high hopes for it.

    Cathy--I hope you and your daughter not only locate it, but enjoy it. :)


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