Writing duo Carol and Robert ‘Bob’ Bridgestock, collectively known as R.C. Bridgestock, have a wealth of experience as senior officers with West Yorkshire Police and they put it to good use in their Detective Inspector Jack Dylan police procedurals. You can tell there is an attention to detail from the moment a police officer appears on the scene in the early pages of Snow Kills. The Bridgestocks have worked on Happy Valley, Scott and Bailey, and other TV and radio shows as expert consultants.
This is my first DI Dylan novel and I was struck by the warm prologue, I’ve become used to explosive starts, outbreaks of violence and confessions but this is different. Jack Dylan, head of Harrowfield CID, his wife Jen and the new baby, Maisy, are enjoying a walk/push in the pram in the snow near their home in Sibden. Nothing rushed, this feels like it is going to be a meticulously plotted slow-burn thriller.
Wednesday, 2pm. The weather is closing in, the snow is coming down hard but it doesn’t stop Mavis Beanland coming in to get her hair done before she goes to visit her sister. Kayleigh sees to her and the two share a bit of banter as she works. When Mavis has gone Marlene says Kayleigh should get off, no one is coming in now and there’s no point in opening tomorrow if the weather doesn’t improve. Kayleigh gets in her car, she is thinking of heading to boyfriend Matt’s place, she’s told her mum that, only he’s out at a mate’s house. She passed Donny Longbottom and a mate on the way, they’ve been drinking and they give her a bit of stick but she drives/ploughs on. Eventually she is forced to stop, near Mavis’s place, but of course Mavis is at her sister’s. As she’s stuck there’s a knock on the window, a man offers her tea and a biscuit but she decides to stay with the car. He’s a neighbour of Mavis, anything she’s needs he’s in the cottage just a few yards away. Kayleigh falls asleep and wakes up needing to go to the toilet, it’s now 10pm. She struggles out of the car to the cottage. The door is opened by a little old lady, Nelly. The phone lines are dead but Nelly offers her a bed for the night.
It’s not until a few days later that Marlene rings Kayleigh’s mum from the salon to say she is reopening tomorrow. Kim says Kayleigh is with Matt by she’ll pass the message on so she rings Matt but he hasn’t seen Kayleigh since last Wednesday. He thought she was as home with her mum. Kim is worried, she rings the police. Then she and Matt go looking for Kayleigh’s pink Ka, they find it on Manchester road, there’s no sign of Kayleigh. A policeman, Alan Hughes, begins door-to-door enquiries at the nearest houses, starting with Ivy cottage. Nelly offers him a cup of tea but she can’t help with the missing girl.
Twenty-four hours later there is still no sign of Kayleigh Harwood so PC Jackie May contacts CID. DI Dylan is sufficiently worried to bring May on board and start a full investigation. Desperate to find Kayleigh alive the team hit a hurdle when headline grabbing chief superintendent Hugo-Watkins throws a spanner in the works.
This novel is all about good solid police work, it’s perspiration, dedication and heart that enable the team to focus their investigation. The enquiry feels exactly as you would imagine it to be in real life; enquiries, interviews and searches all piece together a picture of events on the night that has become known as ‘white Wednesday’. There’s a nice side story about Dylan’s wife Jen and the stresses and strains of a marriage, coping with a new baby and one partner working long intense hours on such an important inquiry, this is well portrayed.
Snow Kills is intriguing and down to earth, the tension mounts as the search for Kayleigh goes on. Personally I would have liked a story that was a little less linear, a bit messier, a little less ‘correct’ but I might be in the minority with that. This is a decent murder mystery and ample indication that there is plenty of mileage in the Jack Dylan series, the other novels are Poetic Justice, Deadly Focus, Consequences and White Lillies.
Robert Bridgestock will be taking part in the ‘Is True Crime Better than Fiction?’ panel at Capital Crime on 28th September.
Paul Burke 4/3
Snow Kills by R.C. Bridgestock
The Dome Press 9781912534081 pbk Oct 2019