Book Review: Summoning the Dead (DI Bob Valentine Book 3), by Tony Black

Publisher:  Black and White Publishing

Publication date:   6th October 2016

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DI Bob Valentine stood outside the chief superintendent’s office, worrying the thick, brown, industrial carpet tiles so much that he guessed a static shock was imminent.

summoning-the-dead-by-tony-blackIf anything conjures up a vision of DI Bob Valentine as he works, that quote does it for me. He seems like such a humble bloke; dedicated, considerate, and also fighting a fascinating battle with a unique gift for connecting with the victims, particularly the deceased ones. Yes, Bob is a psychic in denial but he must learn to recognise and embrace the not-so-subtle signs when they present themselves in his new case, especially when complications begin to set in.

In Summoning the Dead he’s trying his damnedest to focus on unearthing the awful truth behind the discovery of a body sealed in an oil drum. The truth may have been festering for over thirty years but Bob won’t give up easily, despite grumbles from higher ranking officers who seem to care more about maintaining good PR.

It’s always disturbing to learn that it’s the body is that of a child who has been disposed of in a merciless way. Given the nature of the heinous crimes preceding the death of this individual, the plot could have so easily have strayed into tactless sensationalism territory to quench the thirst of an audience that relies on explicit language, OTT violence and gratuitous imagery before a story is considered compelling. Thankfully, Summoning the Dead has the upper hand as its sensitively grounded and assured plot has you rooting for DI Valentine as the body in the barrel is just the tip of a repugnant iceberg.

Harrowing scenes from the past are punctuated by apprehension, fear, and the trauma of the uncompromising depravity that can seize innocence and break all trust. These scenes are fleeting and written from a child’s point of view, so no overly-gratuitous pictures just the simple and cruel facts are more than enough to wring your heart out – I felt utterly powerless as I witnessed the events leading up to the victim’s plight.

What makes it worse (if it could be) is that the epicentre of this crime bombshell is in Bob’s former home town of Cumnock, in Scotland. Could he have known a boy like this when he was growing up? A boy whose football kicking and sticker collecting days were over so soon? The moments he’s not working the case gives the DI call for reflection, as he’s come a long way but he still unsure where he’s headed.

I so wanted Bob to catch a break, and the animals that committed the offences. His DS, Sylvia McCormack, seems the closest person he can confide in about the spirits who reach out and she seems a supportive soul without mocking or being preachy. That’s precisely the encouragement he desperately needs between deflecting the obstacles placed by his boss and also his wife, who I strongly suspect is suffering from annoying person syndrome (for which there’s no known cure, until she convinces Bob to accept her terms that is).

Summoning the Dead is a rare find and I applaud the compassionate manner in which the challenging narrative was approached. As this is book three in the DI Valentine series and also my first introduction I was naturally worried I wouldn’t be able to connect with the already established characters but the writing is sheer class and it reads as a standalone with ease.

Rating:  4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publishers with my thanks, and this is my unbiased review.)

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

“We have a dead child, and a crime scene that has been remarkably well kept for us.”

A young child lies mummified in a barrel. His hands, cable-tied, appear to be locked in prayer. As forensic officers remove the boy they are in for an even bigger shock – he is not alone.

With his near-fatal stabbing almost a memory, DI Bob Valentine is settling back into life on the force but he knows nothing will ever be the same. Haunted by unearthly visions that appear like waking dreams, he soon understands he is being inducted into one of Scotland’s darkest secrets.

When the boy in the barrel is identified as a missing child from the 1980s, it re-opens a cold case that was previously thought unsolvable. When further remains are unearthed, the facts point to a paedophile ring and a political conspiracy that leads all the way to the most hallowed corridors of power.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Tony Black is the author of 13 novels. An award-winning journalist, he was born in Australia and grew up in Scotland and Ireland. Described by Irvine Welsh as his ‘favourite British crime writer’ Tony’s work took a turn away from the mean streets after the birth of his son. His Father’s Son was his first novel outside of the crime genre. Tony was shortlisted for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize in 2014 and has been nominated for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger seven times, including the prestiguous ‘Dagger in the Library’ award in 2016, which covers an author’s entire body of work.

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ALSO AVAILABLE IN THE DI BOB VALENTINE SERIES…

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