A Killing in November by Simon Mason – review

Published by Riverrun

Publication date – 27 October 2022

Source – review copy

Ryan Wilkins grew up on a trailer park, a member of what many people would call the criminal classes. As a young Detective Inspector, he’s lost none of his disgust with privileged elites – or his objectionable manners. But he notices things; they stick to his eyes. His professional partner, DI Ray Wilkins, of affluent Nigerian-London heritage, is an impeccably groomed, smooth-talking graduate of Balliol College, Oxford. You wouldn’t think they would get on. They don’t.

But when a young woman is found strangled at Barnabas Hall, they’re forced to.

Rich Oxford is not Ryan’s natural habitat. St Barnabas’s irascible Provost does not appreciate his forceful line of questioning. But what was the dead woman doing in the Provost’s study? Is it just a coincidence that on the night of her murder the college was entertaining Sheik al-Medina, a Gulf state ruler linked to human-rights abuses in his own country and acts of atrocity in others?

As tensions rise, things aren’t going well. Ray is in despair. Ryan is in disciplinary measures. But their investigation gradually disentangles the links between a Syrian refugee lawyer now working in the college kitchens, a priceless copy of the Koran in the college collection and the identity of the dead woman.

Whilst an Oxford college Provost is trying to woo a Sheik to donate money more sinister events are unfolding elsewhere in the grounds. A young woman is found strangled in the Provost’s lodge. Who is she, why was she murdered and can the police find out who the killer is before they strike again?

There’s a well known unwritten rule (pun intended) that an author shouldn’t give their characters names that are too similar to each other. Well Simon Mason has purposefully done so, with great effect. The DI Wilkins are thrown together by mistaken identity, when Ryan is contacted instead of Ray. Ryan is new to the team, moved from Wiltshire after an unfortunate incident involving the Bishop of Salisbury. He is rough, uncouth and unorthodox, and is often mistaken for a teenage criminal instead of a police officer. Ray Wilkins is a model employee, fast tracked, Oxford educated, suave and determined. The pair are thrown together to investigate the murder of an unidentified woman at one the colleges at Oxford University.

Ray calls Ryan a chav, Ryan calls Ray a snob. They are complete opposites in every way. Ray likes Bach, smart suits and designer clothes. Ryan likes dance music and lives in tracksuits. The thing they do have in common is they are both brilliant at their job. They may take different routes to get there but their aim is the same; to find the brutal killer of the unidentified woman. Ray is methodical, determined and professional. Ryan is wildly irregular, steams ahead and lets his mouth work before his brain is engaged. He is a devoted father with a trouble upbringing, which shows a different side of him.

The two Wilkins play off each other well. Their differences are what make them work well together though it’s fair to say neither of them are a good influence on the other. Whilst the book is set in Oxford the pair are no Morse and Lewis, though Ray is a fan of classical music. There’s no symbiotic working relationship between them, unlike with Morse and Lewis. These two are more opposites forced together than opposites attract.

The mystery itself is engaging and paced just right. The background into the suspects and the victim pulls together, with the identity of the victim being unknown for some time. The central characters are easy to imagine, easy to like and easy to read, with the potential for great development over further books.

I flew through the book, eager to find out what would happen next. An entertaining mystery that draws the reader in.

A great start to what a hope is a long series.

You can buy a copy of the book here.

(This is an affiliate link so I may make a small amount if you purchase through it. You can also buy A Killing in November from your local independent bookshop.)

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