Crime Fiction at its best.
Cold Pressed by JJ Marsh
This is the fourth book in a series based on the personal and working life of Scotland Yard officer, Detective Inspector Beatrice Stubbs. However, it’s not necessary to have read the others in order to be able to follow this one. Like its predecessors it can stand alone.
I have read and enjoyed the other three and so my expectations were high, but I was also apprehensive in case this latest one didn’t live up to the high standards of the earlier books. I needn’t have worried. It was the best yet. Author JJ Marsh has produced another excellent piece of crime fiction.
Beatrice Stubbs is a wonderful creation. She’s complex, flawed and utterly believable.
She’s not only a clever, successful and gutsy police officer, but she also has mental-health issues and faces some difficulties in her relationship with her long-term partner, Matthew.
Her occasional malapropisms only add to her endearing qualities. For example she mentions ‘not upsetting the apple tart’, and needing ‘forty wings’ when sleepy.
Beatrice’s job often takes her abroad and involves her working jointly with foreign police forces. In Cold Pressed, when a British woman, a passenger aboard a cruise ship sailing around the Greek islands, dies after being thrown from a cliff whilst ashore, Beatrice is sent to investigate alongside Inspector Stephanakis of the Greek police. The setting, of course, lends itself to beautiful visual descriptions, and Marsh certainly brings Santorini, the Cyclades and the Dodecanese to life. The reader can see the bluest of seas, feel the hottest sunshine, taste the delicious food.
But there’s menace too and there are serious crimes to be solved, and what Beatrice had hoped would be a straightforward and brisk investigation, becomes a more prolonged and difficult case when two more of the ship’s passengers are discovered to have been murdered. Beatrice and Inspector Stephanakis must stay with the ship and get to know the captain, crew and guests. Before both police officers find their own lives in danger when they discover a dark secret and a murder suspect out for revenge.
But Cold Pressed is much more than a simple police-procedural tale. Marsh is an excellent story-weaver. The plot twists and turns, the suspense is compelling. The intertwining of the details of the case and Beatrice’s personal demons is clever and credible and gives the plot a multi-layered feel. All the characters, major and minor, are well drawn and believable. As a reader, you’re drawn in and made to care about them as you feel the terror and panic that sweeps the ship.
Marsh’s economical, highly visual prose make this book a deceptively easy read, but at the same time a most satisfying one.
The book is available in ebook and paperback here.