One of the most satisfying pairings in detective crime novels is Barry Maitland’s Kathy Kolla and David Brock, first seen in The Marx Sisters. At the time, Kolla is a Detective Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police and in charge of her first murder investigation. DCI Brock of Scotland Yard has an almost legendary reputation and causes no little consternation when he becomes involved in the case.
Over the course of the series (the next is Chelsea Mansions, October 2011), Kolla comes into her own as an investigator and eventually joins Brock’s team at Scotland Yard. Their relationship evolves from student-mentor to colleagues, and although there is an occasional hint of other possibilities, both are involved in their own affairs of the heart. Murder and crime-solving are, as expected, front and center, something another review of the series referred to as “whydunnits.” The investigations are solid, thoughtful, frequently unexpected and complicated.
Where Maitland really shines is in the inclusion of some aspect of London, some familiar subject, which figures prominently in the crime. As Kolla and Brock ask questions, the reader learns along with them in a way that is interesting and instructive without being pedantic.
The Chalon Heads, for example, involves stamp collecting and forgery. When a woman’s body is discovered in a shopping mall in Silvermeadow, the detectives have to understand how these mega buildings work. Other books involve the theater, architecture, London’s Brixton neighborhood, its Arab communities, art, real estate development and police corruption. Each book is different, each builds upon the previous, and none fall prey to “been there, done that.”
Underneath it all is the question of how to maintain anything like a normal life while navigating the political side of policing and the ugliness of what people do to one another. The results are seldom easy or neat, but one senses that these characters strive for what’s right and what they can live with at the end of the day.
The books in series order are:
The Chalon Heads
The Verge Practice
Bright Air (standalone crime novel)
This guest post was written by Darlynne. Some of Maitland’s books are available digitally and those are the ones I linked to the Kindle edition(s). However, reading over reviews and from my own personal experience, some digital versions have errors more to do with formatting than the writing.