The Dentist (The DS Cross mysteries) Paperback – June 10, 2020
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- Publisher : Pacific Press (June 10, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 360 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1913783022
- ISBN-13 : 978-1913783020
- Item Weight : 13.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,274,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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His name is clearly symbolic of old-fashioned values of solid dependability and respect for the truth in a confusing modern world, and his form of Asperger’s prevents him from falling for the ordinary social deceptions. What might seem a weakness in reading character, behaviour and psychology becomes instead a strength for someone who is more than a little obsessive about finding order in routines, mundane details and solid research to uncover the central skullduggery and then a bit more.
While it’s a bit of a misnomer to say that his opponent will stop at nothing to prevent Cross reaching the truth, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome. From the ordinary limitations of police budgets and office politics, to the pressure to close the case prematurely, the disdain of his colleagues and his own social awkwardness, Cross cuts a lonely figure at times. But his odd habits and remarkable memory begin to tell and by the end, he has begun to gather allies and the respect of his peers. The mystery of the first murder of course leads to uncovering further historic crimes, which may lead to the Major Crime Unit itself. The world of middle-class, aspirational Bristol is depicted as full of passion, folly, vanity and regret, so it really does need Cross’s dispassionate attitude to cut through the emotional turmoil to reach the surprising truth.
Where the story really comes alive is in the cat and mouse scenes of the interview room, where Cross carefully manipulates the unwitting responses of those who underestimate him, both suspects and professionals yielding to Cross’s cunning persistence. Given Sullivan’s background as a screenwriter, it’s not a surprise to find the drama at its height in these moments.
Sullivan has concocted a satisfying mix of characters and clues, leading the reader through a series of events culminating in a deadpan reveal which sticks to the rules but remains a surprise. There is a range of interesting supporting characters, from Cross’s Concorde-engineer father to his reluctant partner Ottey, and the new kid on the block desperately trying to become worthy of Cross’s professional approval.
So if you want a grand guignol account of serial killing, tortured sexuality, warped psychology and over-the-top bloodletting, look elsewhere. But if you enjoy the methodical detective work of the police procedural, with the added element of seeing the success of the neuro-untypical, then this is a great read. George Cross has what it takes to nail it.
That’s certainly not immediately obvious however when the first murder is that of a homeless person found dead on the Clifton Downs. The identity of the dead man is discovered to be Leonard Carpenter, a formerly well-respected dentist in the community who had disappeared and been declared dead by his family. Cross soon learns that the dentist’s wife Hilary also was murdered a number of years ago, the case inexplicably unsolved and dropped. Taking a back to front approach,, Cross reckons that if they can discover who murdered Hilary the wife it might lead to who killed Leonard, the homeless former dentist.
There’s a bluntness and a persistence to Cross’s actions but it’s very different from the more typical maverick cop pursuing his own investigation, as Cross is just following procedure with due diligence, a course of action that is convincingly based on authentic behaviours of someone with his condition. But those behaviours can also be unpredictable. This gives The Dentist very much an edge of unpredictability that is just perfect for the beginning of a new series. There are enough strange unexplained elements in each of the two murder cases to give the detective something to really get to grips with, something that probably only someone with his condition and unique insight might be able to solve.
It’s no spoiler then to find that the cases are resolved through meticulous adherence to procedural methods rather than any explosive showdowns but with DS Cross you can be sure there are surprises and revelations along the way. As a former screenwriter and director, Tim Sullivan ensures that The Dentist is superbly laid out, accumulating intrigue, layering in further details about Cross, his background, his habits and relationships with people. This is the whole package as far as crime fiction goes with more than enough originality to suggest that there’s the makings of a great new detective series here.
Some other things bugged me. Cross' deliberate bumbling and his last-minute "Oh, and just one more thing" were so reminiscent of an episode of "Columbo" that Peter Falk's estate might think about suing for plagiarism. The book could also use a tighter edit; commas are used where semicolons or fullstops would have been better, and tenses are juxtaposed freely, often in the same sentence. And why did the builder make his false confession out of the blue? Was he just bored sitting in his cell - or did the author intend to resolve this, and just forgot...
The characters, particularly the police officers, were skilfully developed. I felt the story was really about them perhaps at the expense of some of the story line. Particularly about George Cross. There is a growing number of novels with Aspergic or autistic principal characters and with their exceptional psychological (but not necessarily social) skills and it feels as though there is a new breed of literary superheroes in the making across the genre. I really wanted to read about a Growing relationship between George and Ottey or Mackenzie, and there were occasional hints that in later books (?) that may happen.
I have implied that the story itself is a it run of the mill, so why give it five stars? Because of the characters.