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At Death's Window (Shaw and Valentine) by Jim Kelly
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Crème de la Crime Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781780290683
Date: 01 February 2015 List Price $28.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

A wealthy man and his children, stranded on a sandbar, discover a corpse floating in the water. During their investigation, Detective Inspector Peter Shaw and his partner Detective Sergeant George Valentine learn there is a multitude of criminal activity on the beach of Britain's north Norfolk Coast: Men are fighting over a wild seaweed, Samphire, which is cooked and served in many fine restaurants. It yields a high profit for those who can harvest it. Meanwhile, vacation homes of wealthy incomers are being burglarized. Also, someone is selling cocaine laced with a drug, levamisole, which causes necrosis--death of living tissue; a victim may lose their fingers, toes and sometimes their life.

Also by Jim Kelly:
Peter Shaw and George Valentine Series:
* Death Wore White
* Death Watch
* Death Toll
* Death's Door
* At Death's Window
Philip Dryden:
* The Coldest Blood
* The Skeleton Man
* Nightrise
* The Funeral Owl
* The Water Clock
* The Fire Baby
* The Moon Tunnel

At Death's Window is Jim Kelly's fifth novel to feature the odd pair of British detectives, Shaw and Valentine; once again, they are solving gruesome crimes. A window is an interesting invention. It can provide us with a beautiful view of a beach while also protecting us from the harmful elements of a raging storm. A window is both strong and fragile. We can glance through a window and spy a stranger who is a killer. Sometimes, we can look at a window and see the reflection of a killer: a killer that is standing right behind us, or a killer that is within us. One of the novel's characters is throwing rocks at the stained glass windows of churches at King's Lynn (where Shaw and Valentine work) because they don't like a particular angel that is depicted. Could it be the angel of death?

There is never a word wasted in one of Jim Kelly's complex mysteries. Every subplot is connected. Crimes are brought to life using both medical and police procedures. Reading one of Jim Kelly's novels is like reading nonfiction. His novels always remain fast-paced throughout; every now and again, a corpse will pop up in order to ensure this. Also, the author's novels involve timely issues. At Death's Window involves the vandalism of wealthy incomers' second homes. Much of the action occurs in a small beach community known as Burnham Marsh; it is comprised mostly of vacation homes that appear deserted except for the occasional security guard. I often ask myself, "Why own another home if you're seldom going to be there? It would be more cost efficient to rent."

I am from the small Tennessee town, which sits at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are nearby. Many local yokels complain of Northerners buying vacation homes. They build log cabins up and down the mountainsides, ruining views that were once breathtaking. Locals also complain about migrant workers from Mexico coming in and taking away their jobs and marrying white women in order to get their citizenships. They complained when the Japanese built an automobile plant, even though it did hire some locals, including distant relatives of mine. At Death's Window has the same issues that many communities that rely on tourism, such as my hometown, face.

After reading Jim Kelly's latest novel, I definitely won't ever use cocaine. I knew that cocaine was never sold pure; it is often cut with additives such as anesthetics, laxatives, and laundry detergents. In other words, you don't know what is exactly going into your body. Recently, dealers have been mixing cocaine with levamisole, which is used in the United States to deworm cattle. It often kills patches of skin, causing them to turn black and fall off. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), 69% of the cocaine seized since July 2009 contained levamisole. This is scary. If high school health education teachers circulated photos of cocaine victims with dead patches of skin on their ears and faces, I bet cocaine usage would dramatically decrease.

At the heart of Jim Kelly's At Death's Window, there is a great whodunit mystery. The person responsible for nearly decapitating the man found tied down at the sandbar remains unknown until nearly the novel's very end. A multitude of interesting and diverse characters; an exotic coastal setting; gruesome killings; realistic medical and police procedures; and an odd sleuthing team of likeable detectives make At Death's Window a great installment in one of Europe's greatest mystery series.

The next installment, Death on Demand, will be released in November 2015. I can't wait for more death on Britain's Norfolk Coast.

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