First Line: Ford leans out from the limestone rock face halfway up Pen-y-holt sea stack, shaking his forearms to keep the blood flowing.
On the sixth anniversary of his wife's horrific death, newly promoted Detective Inspector Ford is given his first big case: the murder of a young nurse and her son in a small apartment in Salisbury. Helping him will be Salisbury's new crime scene investigator, Dr. Hannah Fellowes.
Trouble soon ensues when Ford's instincts lead him straight to a very high-profile suspect. Every time he's warned off by his superiors, Ford is even more determined to prove he's right. But are he and his team going to be able to find the proof that backs up his hunch?
I decided to read Andy Maslen's Shallow Ground because of its Salisbury, England, setting. I couldn't remember reading a police procedural set there before. The setting didn't figure much in the story, but what did was the characters. The opening scene which shows readers how Ford's wife died is chilling and emotionally draining without going overboard graphically. Will Ford's overwhelming sense of guilt ever fade? Should it ever fade? Perhaps subsequent books will tell us.
There's a running (lame) joke about Ford's first name, but after a more famous one with Inspector Morse, this doesn't spark any jollity in me. He's trying to raise his fifteen-year-old son, Sam, the best way he knows how, and that's not easy. Not only is Sam at "that age," Sam is also deeply wounded by his mother's death-- and the fact that Ford spends a lot more time on the job than he does with his son.
To Ford and Sam add two more interesting characters, Ford's second-in-command, Jools, and the new crime scene investigator, Dr. Hannah Fellowes. I look forward to learning more about all four of these characters in subsequent books. For me, the weak link is the plot. Although I did find the serial killer to be interesting, the route taken to his capture needed to be streamlined. There was too much of the "red herring" suspect. I also found Ford's tendency to rely more on his gut than he does on the evidence to be annoying. You can't throw 'em in the slammer without proof, Ford. Learn how to focus on getting the evidence that proves your gut without throwing all your superiors into conniptions, please.