Dead Lands Review: A Great 1970s Police Procedural

dead lands

Following on from my exploration of truly great historical crime fiction novels, I review a novel which evokes a restless time in the UK’s history. Historically the novel is set during a period of unrest and distrust in the police, making this an ideal space in which to showcase the story of two police detectives with potentially ulterior motives and a tough case to crack.

As part of his blog tour, I’ve had the privilege of reading Lloyd Otis’s Dead Lands, which is set in the 1970s and creates an exceptional setting. London at the tale end of the 70s is portrayed as a bleak space in which tough, varied characters flourish. Witty dialogue and well-crafted description characterise this novel, and the story is both fast-paced and intriguing. The politically volatile world of the 70s acts as an ideal space for an adventurous book, packed with violence, intrigue and unrest.

Detectives DI Breck and DS Kerns slog through a gruelling case following the murder of a highflying Finance Director whose body is discovered in a gruesome state. A suspect is quickly identified and arrested, however a daring escape is followed by a questioning of everything the detectives thought they knew. Kerns develops her own personal agenda, which threatens to derail the already rocky and complicated investigation, offering plenty for the reader to delve into as they navigate a vast list of suspects and a tense political background.

It is this complexity that provides a great space for an exhilarating thriller with enough twists to keep the reader hooked from page one. The victim and suspects all lead complicated lives that derail the detectives’ quest for answers, whilst personal problems colour their view and ramp up the tension.

The sole criticism I have for this otherwise thrilling and exhilarating novel is that the chapters are simply too short. As a result of reading chapters that are sometimes as short as two pages, the reading experience is disrupted regularly, and as such the novel often feels stilted and distorted. Slowing down such an intense, complicated novel with short chapters and a narrative that often jumps from place to place like a grasshopper on speed is a real tragedy, but despite this there is a lot to go on with this exceptional cross between a thriller and a police procedural.

This creative combination makes for an enjoyable and gripping read, and although the short paragraphs break up the narrative there is great potential in experienced blogger and journalist Otis’s debut novel, which is definitely worth checking out.

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