I love detective fiction. It’s sometimes a guilty pleasure as I tuck into an old favourite, but sometimes it’s a more challenging read, and that’s the case for A Book of Scars. This is the third in William Shaw’s Breen and Tozer series, and it’s worth starting with the first book, A Song from Dead Lips (Breen and Tozer Book 1) as the plot builds cleverly over the trilogy, even as each book stands alone.
The series starts in 1968 and moves to 1969 with a recognisable London setting, and characters that are spread across the divide that split teenagers from the older generation, those for whom everything was ‘Fab’ from those who still wore suits and polished shoes.
Sergeant Cathal Breen is in the latter group and he is forced out of his comfort zone by the death of his father in the first book, and throughout the series by Helen Tozer who is the first female trainee CID officer in Breen’s unit.
A series of murders drive the detective part of each book: these are as well researched as the historical details. There are some fascinating elements that link some of the stories to Africa too, focussing particularly on events in Biafra at the time, and Kenya some years earlier, both of which link in to the cases that Breen and Tozer are working on.
Throughout the series Breen and Tozer’s relationship develops. There are no hearts and flowers and the end of the series sees their relationship at a stage that is perhaps of the time, with the right amount of human interest for a crime novel. And the mystery that is set at the start of book one, what happened to Helen Tozer’s sister Alexandra, grows in significance and is resolved by the end of the third book. Overall this is a great series of books, well written with good characterisation.