Book review: Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

Talking to the Dead
by Harry Bingham
Orion, 2012

DC Fiona Griffiths has been in the police force for 4 years after graduating from Cambridge. She’s particularly talented at paperwork, so as the book opens is investigating an ex-cop who has been embezzling money from the school where he went to work after retirement from the police. Fiona is puzzled because there is more money washing around than is missing from the school.

While Fiona wields her calculator, her Cardiff colleagues become involved in a major crime investigation. A woman and her six-year-old daughter are found dead in a dingy flat, the girl clearly having been murdered. The couple did not live in the flat, so the investigation centres on the forensic evidence (leading to a drug connection) and the possibility that the mother was a prostitute. Fiona is itching to get involved, and manges to persuade DI Jackson to let her help interview some prostitutes in an attempt to find the names of men who might have been controlling them.

There are many strands to this novel. Fiona herself is the main event: she is an unusual person who has suffered from an unspecified illness for two years while a teenager. This has left her as an outsider: although she efficiently adds information into the shared database of the investigators, there is plenty she keeps to herself, especially when she perceives a link between the murder and embezzlement cases. The author provides many details about Fiona’s friends and family, as well as her romantic feelings towards a colleague. There is also a great deal of Welshness about the book, in terms of locations and descriptions of ways of life.

Talking to the Dead is an interesting novel which I enjoyed, especially the character of Fiona. It is rather long for its content, lagging quite seriously in the middle 150 pages. Yet towards the end of the book, when many of the apparently disparate plot strands come together, there is both a satisfactory solution to the mystery as well as some insight into her illness, and closure, for Fiona, who becomes aware of a very significant personal event due to her ability to empathise with the dead young girl. There is an action-packed climax which I found a bit silly, but this did not spoil the book for me.

I borrowed this book from the library.

Read other reviews of it at: Reviewing the Evidence, Books and Writers, Promoting Crime Fiction and Crime Fiction Lover.

9 thoughts on “Book review: Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

  1. I am intending to read this book and this is the second review I’ve read of it. It does sound quite tempting. Your library seems to get very up-to-date books 😉

    • Not usually, Sarah, I just happened to be lucky this time. The selection is pretty poor usually, so I have to reserve books (& they rarely have the ones I want, especially if newish).

  2. Maxine – Thanks; this is an excellent review of a book that interests me. I’ve heard about it in other places and was thinking it might be worth a read. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. Fiona Griffiths sounds like an interesting protagonist too, and that the character development is solid.

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