Solving murders by understanding "Land Rites"
Land Rites – Andy Maslen
Land Rites, by Andy Maslen, is a murder mystery, part of the Detective Ford series. An evolution of the Christie world, enriched with CSI television plus British class drama.
This is a well-built tale, smart enough that it does not need to hide clues in order to create a small twist to the solution. In fact, a discerning reader will be able to be a few pages ahead of the detectives’ revelations – thus feeling empowered in their deductive abilities. This does wonders to outbalance the formulaic elements, which loom a bit too large. Also, it nearly excuses the threads left hanging, unsubtly expecting the reader to follow to the next book in the series.
Mr Maslen has a strong commercial writing background, as well as experience in his criminal investigation series. He understands pace and characterisation; thus, the audience is invested in the characters and events, but not overly so. The reader is not worried the criminal will be caught, even though the hero is flawed. It is the underlying mystery that has the most pull, and thus it remaining unsolved is most irritating.
Who would enjoy this
Land Rites is a great quick read, particularly enjoyable for lovers of murder mysteries. Moreover, it keeps quite a clean narrative despite the subject-matter and a few of the more gruesome scenes.
Who should give this a pass
DI Ford is a flawed character, yet his most important, repeatedly mentioned, personal mystery is unclosed within Land Rites. Therefore, this is not a successful choice for those interested in single volumes, rather than series with intertwining plots.
Also, it might be misleading for readers hoping for a glimpse of British life. Many of the class differences underpinning the plot require a previous understanding of the actual chasm and weight of the elements at play.
Conclusions and suggestions
Land Rites is an example of smart entertainment in book form. Mr Maslen knows his craft, the editorial expectations, and his readership. He delivers a good example of a successful product in its niche. On the other hand, his insistence on Ford’s personal issues regarding his wife’s death, even starting the thread of the specialist’s involvement, all of which he leaves unsolved, lacks finesse. It is very jarring, as opposed to the rest of the work.
Nevertheless, I do find this volume a good example of commercial murder mysteries, which I would (have already, in fact) happily recommend. Alongside, I would like to focus on a couple of aspects to remember, when writing similar works:
· Build the pace to serve both the plot, and character development. They should support each other, not pull in different directions.
· The interest in continuing reading future volumes of a series cannot be forced. It should be fuelled like a desire, instead of the result of blatant manipulation. Readers will punish that.