Dead People (Glyn Capaldi)
by Ewart Hutton
Cover Artist: Cabin by Mira / Alamy; Steps by Nikreates / Alamy
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250019639
Date: 15 April 2014 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Detective Sergeant Glyn Capaldi remains in exile in the Mid Wales village of Dinas. At the construction site for a wind farm, he discovers a gruesome burial site consisting of corpses that have undergone identity erasure. Their heads and hands are missing. All except the most recent one have been skeletonized. Thanks to DNA testing, one of them is identified as the missing Evie Salmon, a rebellious, young woman. While investigating the wind farm's assortment of bizarre neighbors, Capaldi makes more gruesome discoveries. Soon, his career and life are jeopardized by a vengeful serial killer who is extremely strong and clever.
Ewart Hutton performed the impossible. He wrote a sequel that outshone his superb debut, Good People. His latest thriller, Dead People, is more gruesome, more intriguing, and more atmospheric. In Good People, the reader is introduced to the tiny, backwards village of Dinas, located in what DS Glyn Capaldi refers to as "Pig Wales". Good people is a misnomer. There are very few good people living in Dinas; they're mostly bad. However, DS Capaldi does find quite a few dead people buried in a soft patch of earth at a wind farm. As in his previous novel, he begins interviewing a lot of bad people who live in close proximity of the heinous crime scene. There is an archaeological dig site, a horse farm, an art gallery, and a camp for wayward city youth.
Hutton describes the crime scenes in gruesome, gory detail that may nauseate some readers while fascinating others, like myself. Fans of television's CSI will be elated. The body count is high enough to satisfy a slasher fan like myself. The novel abounds with both medical and police procedures. The human drama is off the chart; it appears that everyone has some secrets to hide. Like an Agatha Christie whodunit, many characters are also guilty of committing underhanded deeds. The killer's identity was kept hidden from me until nearly the novel's end when DS Capaldi begins mentally revealing his suspicions.
The setting is the isolated, rural community of Dinas, Wales. The gruesome burial site is on a deeply forested mountain with narrow roads and tracks that become treacherous when it rains and snows during this late winter, early spring time of the year. (It appears that Global Warming is affecting Wales as much as the United States.) Most of the action, it seems, occurs at night when characters are stalking and spying on each other. Bones are found sticking out of the ground, graves are violated, and secret tunnels are discovered beneath the earth. The macabre setting, it would seem, is more appropriate for a ghoulish Halloween tale than a mystery.
DS Capaldi finds himself the center of two attractive women's affections. One of them is the lonely, often drunk, Gloria Fenwick who, along with her sister-in-law, Isabel Fenwick, operates the art gallery, Pen Tyn Barn Gallery. He is also pursued by Dr. Tessa MacLean who works at the archaeological dig site that neighbors the windfarm site. Whereas DS Capaldi may have women pursuing him for love, he has two men hounding him because of hatred. Both of them are his superiors: Detective Chief Sergeant Jack Galbraith and Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Fletcher. DCI Fletcher was once his best friend until he began moving up the ranks and repeatedly backstabbed DS Capaldi in order to look good in the eyes of his superiors.
The closing words of Dead People led me to believe that there will be a sequel. I practically leapt for joy. I want this unique series, full of gloom and gore, not to end. Ewart Hutton has established himself as one of the great authors of European noir. I will be reading him along with my other favorites such as Jim Kelly ( The Funeral Owl), Peter James (Dead Man's Time), and Barry Maitland (The Raven's Eye). A creepy setting, a tortured hero, a psychotic villain, and grisly murders make Dead People a mystery that is truly unnerving and difficult to lay aside. With its Celtic history; isolated, deeply forested countryside; and superstitious peasants; the village of Dinas has many more lurid tales to birth.