London Calling

Published: 2011
Author: James Craig


The start of what could be a classic series


London Calling is the first novel in James Craig’s Inspector Carlyle series.  So sure is Craig that the book will be a success that he has already announced the next two installments – Never Apologise, Never Explain and Buckingham Palace Blues.  And you know, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that the Carlyle novels will continue for the next few years at least.  With the retirement of Rebus there’s a gap in the UK crime fiction market for a new top cop and Carlyle has the potential to be just the man.

From the opening chapter which depicts a particularly gruesome murder I was completely gripped. I needed to know more and questions were rushing through my mind.   I did guess motive if not murderer but there were plenty of plot twists, gory murders and shocking revelations to keep me hooked until the very last page.

The main character, Inspector John Carlyle, is more of an everyman than most fictional detectives.  He doesn’t seem to have serious character flaws, his love life isn’t complicated and his addictions run more to coffee and pastries than booze or drugs.  Carlyle’s problems are instantly recognisable – long hours interfering with family life, domestic chores and worries about how to pay the school fees.  Carlyle’s career trajectory also helps to create a bond between the reader and the Inspector.  He’s been involved, even if only on the periphery, in some of the UK’s biggest police news stories of the past 30 years – the miners’ strike, the Brixton riots, the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher and the Poll Tax riots.   Carlyle is presented to us as someone we know – we recognise all of these events therefore we recognise Carlyle.

There are a couple of cop-story cliches in London Calling to be sure.  Carlyle has a strained relationship with his politically aware superior and is slightly disconnected from his colleagues.   These particular cliches do work but I hope Craig doesn’t add more.  I really wouldn’t like to see the future stories including a separation, booze problem or drug-addled, delinquent daughter – that would negate the very ordinariness and appeal of Carlyle.

The story involves a General Election campaign threatened by the involvement of the Leader of the Opposition in a series of horrific murders.  Craig hasn’t looked far for inspiration for his political characters – brothers vying to reach the top of their party and the country, a University dining club for rich young men where bad behaviour and vandalism are par for the course and the Eton educated politician married to the creative director of a luxury goods company.  I did look out for mentions of the wife being a Baronet’s daughter or having a dolphin tattoo – I couldn’t see any but I’m sure that was the case.

This poaching of ideas from real life doesn’t detract from the novel.  Craig keeps the action going at an enjoyable pace which ensures the reader’s attention is on the story and not any comparisons with real life.  London itself plays a leading role in the story, presented as both the big city that we all know and a small, local neighbourhood that belongs to Carlyle.

The ending is deliciously morally ambiguous.  I don’t know if the next novel will feature many of the same characters but I’d love to know what happens next in some of the plotlines.

London Calling is an assured debut with an engaging lead character and I hope it is just the first of many in the Carlyle series.

(London Calling is currently only available for Kindle at the bargain price of £1 but paperback will be released soon)

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  1. Excellent Review! And I love the image on the cover too. I even looked up the Amazon site and cost of a G3 +wifi kindle! For the Kindle £1 offer… haha slapped my wrist and will await for the paperback 😉 trying to avoid impulse buying – but I really want to read this Book after this review. TY B

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