Three point five stars.
The Last Thread is a contemporary police crime novel set in and around Worcester.
It starts with a tense situation: a suicide attempt on a busy road-bridge with DCI Stirling asked to step in as chief negotiator. A daring photographer later splashes Stirling’s involvement all across the media. As a result, Stirling finds himself removed from day-to-day policing as part of an internal investigation. Hampered further by those with political aspirations to rise through the ranks, he is kept ignorant of any news about the ‘jumper’s’ case.
However, when a body is found in a burnt-out car, staff shortages mean that Stirling is brought back to lead this new investigation. The team discovers a trail of abuse, extortion, lies and deceit as an area-wide investigation digs deep into the past. Through no fault of his own, Stirling stumbles across the mother of the ‘jumper’ when following leads on the trail of the murder.
Using methodical policing the team get a result, but have they got the right person? Is the confession a believable one? Can the police budget stretch so that every enquiry can be taken?
Ray Britain’s background is in professional investigating. Frustrated by inaccurate and improbable popular crime series, he wrote this book to reflect real life experiences with budget cuts, short staffing, political and media influences which today’s UK police forces face. Has he achieved this? Yes he has, and I think those who work in this profession may enjoy this book; it champions their cause.
However, the purpose of a novel is also to entertain. I believe a strict editor could have tightened the story to increase both the pace and the tension. Also, the author introduced us to a large number of characters, which real police work requires, but I struggled to create clear pictures of them in my mind. At times, I felt several also echoed the author’s voice rather than the character he was creating. Deeper and less clichéd character development, especially of the main characters, may have helped to implant those important memorable images, which will come with further writing experience.
Overall, a good example of real police life, which I wanted to enjoy, but I found the lengthy investigation procedures which hamper the profession today grew a little tedious to read about; I felt they could have been cut down while still remaining authentic.
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Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as the incompetent Chief Inspector Ballard who is intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.
Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location and the discovery of a burnt-out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. Short of experienced senior investigators, ACC Steph Tanner has no choice but to take a professional risk. Throwing Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation, Tanner appoints him as SIO to lead the investigation.
But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many ‘loose threads’ as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation? Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?
Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow?
Following a highly successful career in policing it should be no surprise that it is a crime investigation story. Gaining promotion to a high rank, Ray built his career in the Midlands region of the UK, working in both uniform and investigative roles, but the investigation of crime and the camaraderie of investigators remained his first love.
As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) he led many investigations, some of which engaged specialist, national capabilities. For fifteen years he was a Hostage & Crisis Intervention Negotiator and responded to hostage situations, many firearms incidents and numerous suicide interventions, not all of which ended happily. Ray attended the FBI’s hostage negotiator programme at Virginia, USA as a UK police representative and other responsibilities took him to India, Europe and elsewhere. He received several Commendations in recognition of his work.
Since leaving the police Ray has worked with other criminal justice sector organisations, including HM Government’s Home Office.
Ray’s idea of a good day out is mountain walking or skiing, but most definitely not at the same time! His interests include rugby, an eclectic taste in music but currently keen on modern jazz, he’s a great Dad dancer too – his family might argue to the contrary – reading and occasionally acts as incompetent crew for a friend’s sailing yacht.