Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Body of a Girl

 The Body of a Girl (1972) by Michael Gilbert

Inspector Mercer is reassigned to Stoneferry, a quiet little Thames River community (or so says his new Superintendent). It isn't long before the young, tough detective is setting the town on its ear. He's immediately drawn into the investigation into a body buried in the sands of a Thames island and creates a furor when he initially identifies the long-dead young woman as Sweetie Sowthistle, a teenager who was rather free with her favors--as long as the men were willing to pay up. He's soon proved wrong and the hunt is on to find out who she really was.

Meanwhile, he has also taken to drinking with John Bull, the one-armed owner of a profitable garage--a garage that became even more profitable when certain unfortunate events caused the closure of its two nearest competitors. He begins asking uncomfortable questions and some of the town's "leading citizens" get a bit concerned about the scope of his curiosity. They'd like to see Mercer relieved of his way or another.

When the body is finally identified as a young woman who disappeared from a solicitor's office two years ago, Mercer begins making connections between her death, the garage oddities, and the proceeds from various wage thefts across London. He and his superiors decide it's time to turn up the heat on the movers and shakers of the crime world in this little river town and it all gets resolved in a rather violent ending. this is a pretty violent, fairly hardboiled police procedural--and the violence isn't all on the criminals' side. While I definitely want the bad guys to get their just deserts, Mercer's methods seem to be a bit on the shady side despite his telling various suspects that he doesn't care for the way they do business. I can't say this is the best police procedural I've ever read nor can I say that this is the best Michael Gilbert novel I've ever read. It's a decent procedural which has the saving grace of having a fairly twisty plot that kept my attention. But I definitely didn't care for the tone or the very violent ending and I never warmed up to Mercer--just when I thought I was understanding him and beginning to feel comfortable with him, then he'd throw in a hardboiled curve ball that I wasn't up to catching. ★★

First line: September 7 that year fell on a Tuesday. On that day three things happened, none of them of any apparent importance.

Second line: "The imagination," said Mercer. "absolutely boggles."


Deaths = 9 (one buried alive; one strangled; one poisoned; one natural; three shot; two run over)

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