Swan Song by Robert Edric
Reviewed By Nick Quantrill
Swan Song is the third and final part of Robert Edric's cycle trilogy. Although Edric does not describe himself as crime-fiction writer per-se, he skilfully demonstrates the strength of the genre. Although crime-fiction is generally criticised for not being literary enough, Edric uses it as a vehicle with which to explore contemporary society. Swan Song tackles head-on issues of prostitution and drug addiction, as well as taking a hard look at the consequences of the loss of the fishing industry on Hull.
Using Hull and the East Riding as a backdrop, private investigator Leo Rivers is hired to investigate the murder of a local prostitute by the mother of the chief witness.
From this premise, Edric constructs a tight plot and as more murders are committed, Rivers is drawn into the police investigation for a possible serial murderer. Revealing a grim of loss and betrayal, the story raises questions about morality, complicity and culpability.
Edric is particularly successful at unpicking the motives of some of the story's main characters.
Rivers tender relationship with prostitute, Emily Carr, is particularly poignant and thought provoking.
His depiction of Chief Superintendent Lister, the man in charge of the hunt for the killer, adds an interesting sub-plot. Lister is a man who stops at little to further his own career ambitions, even if it means jeopardising the investigation, and this tension is skilfully drawn out.
However, the series' lead character, Rivers, is a little too weakly sketched. Due to Edric's sparse use of prose and description, the reader is given little clue as to how Rivers is motivated, other than by the paradox of him being a paid private investigator and of him being a private individual looking for some sense of a morally correct outcome. As the novel sets great stock in inviting the reader to consider the motives of its main characters, this is disappointing.
Swan Song is a fast paced crime thriller that is never short of being highly readable, despite its shortcomings.
Edric is suitably skilled at providing clever plot twists and turns in all the correct places before the storyline is satisfactorily resolved. What stops Edric from joining the upper echelon of crime fiction writers is the relative lack of characterisation and a plot reliance on improbable opportunism.
However, there is much to commend and as with all such crime fiction series, a growing familiarisation by the author with his lead character will lead to stronger novels in the future.
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