When Detective Inspector David Bliss lands in rural Hampshire from Scotland Yard to hide out from a murderer bent on revenge in Missing: Presumed Dead
, he thinks the quiet posting will give him a chance to get over some post-traumatic stress. In Hampshire, Bliss is greeted by a seemingly cut-and-dried murder--a local gentleman has knocked off his dad and carried his body out through a busy pub. The body in question can't be found, however, and despite the son's confession, Bliss is unwilling to accept easy answers when they don't quite make sense. His problem--how to solve a case that most believe doesn't need to be solved--is compounded by the fact that, because his past problems force him to keep secrets, some of the Hampshire cops mistrust Bliss. And when it comes time for Bliss to trust someone, it isn't always the police he turns to.
Given that first-time author James Hawkins happens to be a retired police commander and former director of education for the Canadian Institute of Environmental Investigations, it's hardly surprising that this debut novel has the police procedural down cold. What is unusual, especially in a first book, is that the author's confidence with the material frees him to pursue lots of deft side plots examining petty jealousies and other emotional baggage, like the not-always-desirable aftermath of acts of heroism. Writing with great insight and sympathy, Hawkins shows that even after the crime is solved, the whodunit factor may be far less intriguing than the demons that haunt the primary players in this genuinely puzzling investigation. --Deirdre Hanna
Hawkins does an excellent job of keeping the tension high in the bliss-bomber plot, while weaving a real brainteaser around the murder.
Short-listed for the 2002 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel
Detective Inspector David Bliss has been transferred from London, England, to Hampshire in what appears to his new subordinates and superiors as a move down the career ladder. His first day on the job begins with a murder: Jonathan Dauntsey, son of the Major, willingly confesses to murdering his father. It's an open-and-shut case, until the investigation stalls when the police can't find the body.
D.I. Bliss follows a trail of clues that lead him back in time to the point where the central presumption of the case - a murdered father - comes into question. Who did Jonathan Dauntsey murder, if anyone at all? As the mystery of the murder begins to resolve itself, so does the mystery of Bliss's transfer from the big city to a small town.