Detective Inspector Jon Spicer is working on Operation Fisherman, investigating a gang of car thieves, when he responds to a call for help from a Community Support Officer. A woman has been murdered and, because there is a prologue, we already know pretty much how, but we don’t know why. And, despite the prologue, we don’t know whodunit. As the first detective on the scene, Spicer (or ‘Jon’, as Simms prefers to call his leading man) is made Senior Investigating Officer – it seems a straightforward enough case. So far, so bog standard you might think.
But when Jon gets home at the end of the day, things begin to take a turn for the slightly different. Jon is not an embittered alcoholic loner but a happily almost-married man. Instead of lighting up a cigarette, he chews a stick of gum. Instead of unscrewing the whisky bottle, Jon goes out for an after-work run with his pet boxer. He is career minded, but slightly concerned about being tied down by marriage and by the looming prospect of parenthood. It’s Ian Rankin crossed with Nick Hornby.
Over supper, Jon’s partner Alice tells him some gossip about his friend Tom Benwell, whom he used to play rugby with (it was Tom who gave up; Jon still plays). Alice has heard that Tom’s wife has walked out on him after he lost his job. By all accounts, Tom has become a complete wreck.
The novel then follows Jon’s investigation of the murders (for the first is rapidly followed by several more killings of young single women) in parallel to a series of extremely well-handled flashbacks showing why Tom lost his job and his wife, and cataloguing Tom’s slow but terrible descent into psychotic mental illness.
Killing the Beasts is the first of the Jon Spicer series of novels, and very good it is, too. See my full review at the Bookbag.