Edward Marston does this thing. He builds a compelling crime narrative, elucidates some subtle character moments and interesting 'B' and 'C' story lines. Then something happens about three quarters of the way through DEEDS OF DARKNESS, Mr. Marston's fourth book in the Home Front Series.
The 'A' story here concerns the murder of two young women by a sexual deviant. The 'B' story line follows the peculiar behavior of a neighbor who has lost two sons in WWI and refuses to allow a third to join up. The 'C' story concerns the experiences of Paul Marimon, the soldier son of our lead Detective Harvey Marimon, during the Battle of Somme. These story lines are interwoven to great effect, but with the end of the novel in sight, Mr. Marston abandons the 'A' plot and camps out in the 'B' and 'C' stories. And even though it is only for a chapter or two, front lining these sub-plots has the effect of draining much of the tension out of the main story.
It is almost as though Mr. Marston tired of his own narrative and took a sojourn into the other story lines he had built. Except he was still disinterested when he was obligated to finish the novel. Enter a new character, not surprisingly one that has enough of the answers to lead our Detectives to the murderer who is dispatched forth with. The novel concludes not more than three-quarters of a page later. Abrupt to say the least. And the thing is he did this with the previous book in the series as well, FIVE DEAD CANARIES. I can't remember if there was an extended break in the narrative, but certainly in the final moments of that novel a character is introduced or some bit of business is revealed that leads to a quick adjournment of the proceedings.
Now, of course, this is what happens in most, if not all, crime fiction something is revealed and the killer is caught. However, here, those final moments feel inauthentic to the rest of the well composed, wonderfully written novel. The adage that it is the journey not the destination comes to mind. The journey in DEEDS OF DARKNESS is a skillful explorations of human frailty, while the destination feels slapdash and is not quite as worthy of what has come before it.
On to the next. Michael McGarrity's DEATH SONG. This, along with DEAD OR ALIVE will come with me on vacation.