Four Below: A Detective Inspector Liam McLusky Investigation
by Peter Helton
Cover Artist: Photos: Stephen Carroll / Arcangel Images
Review by Cathy Green
Soho Constable Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616950828
Date: 24 January 2012 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Four Below, the latest murder mystery featuring Peter Helton's Detective Inspector McClusky, starts with DI McClusky chasing down a samurai sword wielding suspect on foot and by jumping in a cab and telling the driver to "follow that man". Meanwhile, an unnamed person prepares to blackmail a very dangerous man with a photograph. How their paths cross will eventually be answered by the end of the novel.
After the excitement of chasing down the man with the sword, DI McClusky and DS Austin are soon stuck in the woods in the cold on what may be a wild goose chase looking for a body or at least part of one according to a dog walker who insists she saw a fox dragging a face around.
Meanwhile, McClusky's sometime rival, DI Kat Fairfield, has the exciting case of a dead junkie in a public toilet. As it turns out, the junkie did not die of an overdose, he died of anthrax poisoning. And soon more junkies start dying. Is someone deliberately trying to kill off junkies using heroin laced with anthrax?
McClusky's case also quickly starts to develop a high body count as the search of the woods turns up a different body that was obviously tortured before being killed. It still has its face, so the body the fox mangled is still out there. Other severely tortured victims start turning up as well. McClusky must also deal with the case of a dead body in a car wreck near a farm near the woods. The driver of the car may have been involved in dealing drugs.
Could the case be connected to DI Fairfield's case? And what is the connection among the seemingly unrelated torture victims? Meanwhile, the Bristol Herald starts receiving cut up pieces of a photograph. Is this the same photograph taken by the unnamed blackmailer? How does this tie in with either McClusky's or Fairfield's cases?
Making DI McClusky's and DI Fairfield's lives more difficult, the heat is completely out at the Albany Road station and, more importantly, some idiot safety regulation has resulting in the removal of the office coffee maker. In addition to the pressure from their high body count cases, McClusky and Fairfield are also dealing with problems in their personal lives, as their exes both show up in Bristol.
One body and one clue at a time, Peter Helton gradually weaves the complex web of the cases together, resulting in a satisfying conclusion that resolves all of the plot threads set up in the first half of the book. Four Below is the second DI Liam McClusky novel and worked just fine as a stand alone mystery. It is not necessary to have read the first McClusky novel, Falling More Slowly, in order to understand or enjoy Four Below. Fans of police procedurals and gritty urban crime novels will want to read Four Below.