Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths welcomes the call about illegal dumping in a Cardiff, Wales, suburb; it saves her from another dull weekend. What she doesn't expect is to find a severed human leg-- complete with a high-heeled shoe-- tucked away in a garage freezer. The police are able to identify the body part as that of a young woman who went missing five years earlier, but just as Fiona starts to get inside the murdered girl's head, another body part is found, and this one belongs to a male. As more body parts are found, the media begin whipping themselves into a frenzy, and-- contrary to the evidence-- Fiona is convinced that these two victims are connected in some way.
My first encounter with DC Fiona Griffiths was in Harry Bingham's Talking to the Dead, and it became one of my Best Reads of 2012. Love Story, With Murders is now one of my Best Reads of 2014, and it has everything to do with Fiona... Fi.
While in her teens she suffered an unusual sort of breakdown, and it has colored everything in her world: how she relates to people, how she thinks, how she copes with stress. She's almost the idiot savant of the Cardiff police force-- one moment disobeying orders and haring off to do something extremely foolhardy, and the next moment putting totally disparate clues together to crack a case. Reviewers have likened her to Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander, and they are similar in their strange intelligence, but where Lisbeth radiates hostility, Fi is often endearing-- especially once you know the truth about her breakdown.
Love Story, With Murders continues the story of Fi's reintroduction to the normal world. She's got a man in her life now, and she works to remember to do all that "boyfriend stuff" that he expects. You can almost chart her progress as the pages turn, and it makes you feel good. She's also developing a rapport with her boss, Rhiannon Watkins, a woman so disliked that she could be "the first murder victim with over a million plausible suspects. A group that would include every one of her CID colleagues." Watkins can see flashes of Fi's brilliance, and Fi always seems to ignore the superficial to see things in people that normally go unnoticed. Boyfriend, boss... and family, for Fi's father also becomes part of the investigation, which is both a worry and a help to the young detective constable.
The case is a true puzzler; however, I was so wrapped up in watching Fiona put the clues together that I made no attempt to solve the crimes ahead of her. Bingham has combined an absolutely brilliant characterization with a finely constructed mystery-- for the second time in a row. Love Story, With Murders can be read as a standalone, but if wonderful characters are one of the main reasons why you read, why deny yourself the pleasure of even one paragraph of Fiona Griffiths' story?
Love Story, With Murders by Harry Bingham
Delacorte Press © 2014
Hardcover, 400 pages
Police Procedural, #2 Fiona Griffiths mystery