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Death Ship (Shaw and Valentine) by Jim Kelly
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Severn House Kindle Edition  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781780290904
Date: 01 December 2016

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

The Ross family is injured and thousands of summer vacationers terrified when a bomb detonates at Hunstanton Beach on England's Norfolk Coast. Soon afterwards, a drowned snorkeler is found tied to a pylon of Hunstanton's old pier. Many locals are peacefully demonstrating against the construction of a new pier--a colossal superstructure that will harm the environment and jeopardize small businesses. However, there is someone evil who is hiding a horrible secret and will do anything, even murder, in order to prevent the pier's construction. DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine must stop this maniac before more innocent people die.

Jim Kelly's Death series continues to become more engaging with each new installment. His seventh outing, Death Ship, is even more fascinating than its predecessors. People are dying around Hunstanton Beach and their deaths are connected to a ship that sunk during a storm that ravaged the Norfolk Coast on January 31, 1953. All on board were lost. However, the ship was soon forgotten, considering that many impoverished residents in low lying areas were drowned. All of Kelly's novels are extremely complex and usually involve a cold case and the modern deaths that are linked to it. There are also the numerous subplots that are always connected. Readers may not discover how they are connected until the novel's end.

Also by Jim Kelly:
Peter Shaw and George Valentine Series:
* Death Wore White
* Death Watch
* Death Toll
* Death's Door
* At Death's Window
* Death on Demand
* Death Ship
Philip Dryden:
* The Coldest Blood
* The Skeleton Man
* Nightrise
* The Funeral Owl
* The Water Clock
* The Fire Baby
* The Moon Tunnel

Death Ship sails beyond the rest of the Death novels because this one, at least for me, had more of an emotional impact. It contains a lot of death, sadness, and broken heartedness. Don't read this novel if you are suicidal or working on your taxes; it might drive you over the edge. Several characters are mourning the past; they are imprisoned by it. Some are being blackmailed by mistakes they committed in the past--mistakes that had deadly consequences. Some characters, who are living in their twilight years, are mourning loved ones who perished in the 1953 storm. Some are hiding secrets that originated on that day. Others are harboring hatred, and seeking revenge.

Readers will rejoice upon learning that DS George Valentine and PPC Jan Clay have been married. She assists Shaw and Valentine with the case involving the "Sweetie Killer"--an elderly woman who's been seen at bus stops handing out poisoned chocolates to riders. As I suspected, she and her family are connected to the tragic storm of 1953. However, I'm sure most everyone living around Hunstanton Beach knows someone (friend, neighbor, classmate, relative, etc.) who perished that night. It was the type of disaster that affected an entire community. Shaw is determined to learn why this elderly woman, known for her history of kindness, begins to suddenly start poisoning people. I kept asking myself, "Didn't their moms teach them never to take candy from a stranger?"

DI Peter Shaw is married to Lena Braithwaite, a beautiful Jamaican. A former lawyer, Lena is now co-owner of Surf!, a beach bar and shop that is popular for its ambiance and isolation. Lena learns that her mom, Muriel, has died of kidney failure. She and their daughter, Fran, travel to Kingston, Jamaica, for the funeral. While visiting her dysfunctional family, Lena makes a startling discovery. This is a good discovery, which is unusual for Death Ship. The story's other deaths have a tendency to lead to additional pain and suffering.

Kelly conducts a tremendous amount of research before writing his novels. They are excellent police and medical procedurals. As the title Death Ship suggests, much of the plot takes place in and around water, whether it is the water of an ocean or a public indoor swimming pool. Readers will learn gruesome details of how a person can die from the bends [a.k.a. decompression sickness (DCS)]; it is a deadly condition that results when a diver ascends too rapidly from deep water. Readers will learn about the dangerous conditions that the pier construction workers endure when laboring inside a submerged caisson. I've also learned not to jump (or fall) from a diving board after its swimming pool has been emptied of water.

Jim Kelly's Death Ship is a very emotional whodunit that made me teary eyed in several scenes. It has a dynamic ending. I love how all the characters and subplots interweave together to form a complex tapestry of modern crime. Like the previous novels in the series, nearly every suspect is guilty of something, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. DI Shaw and DS Valentine are an admirable, albeit odd, couple of sleuths. One is young, one is old; one is healthy, the other is sick; one loves the ocean while the other one hates it. However, both are diligent, persistent, intelligent, and hard working men. I hope I never see the death of Kelly's Death series.

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