Luck and Judgement: A DC Smith Investigation, by Peter Grainger

I liked this book about an English police detective, though it does show the benefits of starting a series on the first book with some writers. By the time this book starts it’s clear that a lot has already happened to Detective Sergeant (DS) Smith. He has been demoted to DS from Detective Inspector (DI), a woman is writing up a book about murders from a previous volume, and his wife has recently died of cancer. This is the third book of a series now containing six volumes. It’s a good book by itself, just be forewarned that there’s some catching up to do.

Smith is a likeable detective, and it’s a relief to see someone in a police management position who actually has the respect of those under him. Not that he doesn’t have issues with those above him, including a Superintendent who seems to want him off the force. (If you find UK police rankings confusing there’s a good article on WikiPedia that I have to go back to every time I read an English crime novel.)

The book begins with Smith and his assistant Walters taking a helicopter out to an oil rig. One of the workers has disappeared from the rig, apparently going overboard in the early hours. Did he slip? Did he jump? Was he pushed? Smith notes some oddities. Hardly any personal items in the man’s quarters and a new lock on a security gate where the man was last seen on security cameras.

Smith finds working the crime a challenge. The victim wasn’t important and not entirely likeable. Smith wants to put resources on a crime that, to many, seems like a simple accident. But as he pushes along he finds a crime more bloody and complicated than expected.

Grainger has created a wonderful team of detectives for Smith to work with and they all blend together well. The mystery is solid and put together well with several sympathetic side characters and interesting locations. A solid book but, as mentioned at the top, you may feel you’re missing some important character information starting here in the middle.