There have been several attempts over the years to settle on the ‘rules’ of writing detective fiction. One rule almost universally agreed, although phrased differently by different people, is: ‘The truth of the problem must at all times be apparent – provided the reader is shrewd enough to see it.’ And herein lies the great joy of the whodunit: sifting as you read, what is significant and what isn’t, which are the genuine clues and which are the red herrings?
With Splinter In The Blood, Ashley Dyer pulls off a masterclass in ‘the truth must be apparent’; she allows us to feel clever and insightful, spotting the relevant clues and working it all out. And then in the end she shows us that actually we’re idiots. Or maybe that’s just me. The truth was apparent all along, but I was too busy looking the other way.
Dyer is a fusion of two women: seasoned crime writer Margaret Murphy and leading CSI
Helen Pepper. I don’t know how their partnership works – maybe they enter a The Fly style
teleportation device and come out as a Brundlefly master of murder – but I do know that it
works. This book is a pleasure.
The central character, Detective Sergeant Ruth Lake, is a superb creation. An introvert in a world of big extrovert egos, she uses stillness and quietness to great effect in holding the
waves of testosterone on all sides at bay.
Dyer also pulls off that enviable trick of placing you immediately slap-bang in the middle of
the action. We join the story mid-fray when there have already been five murders, and the urgency to solve them has been cranked up an enormous notch. There is a rich history to
these characters’ lives and relationships that we catch glimpses of, but with enough held back to keep us guessing.
Dyer is a writer we trust. I once heard this quality described as ‘she knows what’s in the
sandwiches.’ Or I may have dreamt that. But we feel safe in her hands. Splinter In The Blood
is a book you can pick up safe in the knowledge that you will be told a good story by a writer
at the top of her game, and who knows what’s in all the sandwiches.
Who knows, if you’re a bit shrewder than me you might even spot the truth of the problem.