As the Crow Flies by Damien Boyd

A review of the crime thriller novel As the Crow Flies by Damien Boyd.

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As the Crow Flies is a detective novel set in Somerset among the climbing community. After Jake Fayter dies while climbing, local police label it an accidental death. Jake’s parents contact Detective Inspector Nick Dixon, Jake’s former climbing partner, as they don’t believe it was an accident. After hearing that something, or someone, was seen on the mountain above Jake just before he fell, Dixon opens an investigation of his own. During his enquiries Dixon discovers that Jake was no longer the person he knew and that quite a few people actually had reason to want Jake dead. The story follows Dixon’s investigation into not only Jake’s death but his life as well.

Damien Boyd’s book is well-written and easy to read, if a little short. The reader does not need to have any knowledge of climbing as (although there are a few references to the equipment, the category of mountain and other bits) Boyd uses them sparingly and this doesn’t interfere with the actual story. By not overly describing everyday things, the writing effectively relies on the reader’s intelligence.

Unlike some other detective novels, Dixon carries on with his normal cases as well and doesn’t run off doing his own thing. He doesn’t have a sidekick but does work with a selection of different police officers, as you would expect.

Pacing a story so that information is drip-fed to the reader is a difficult skill to master. It’s very easy to give too much away early on or so slowly that readers find themselves reading ahead. Boyd manages to set the pace quite well, allowing the story to flow very nicely.

Detective Inspector Dixon is an interesting character who moved from the Metropolitan Police to Somerset, and his backstory is plausible and well-explained. He is not portrayed as a sad personality or a great go-getter, but I feel that endears him more to the reader. And his dog sounds gorgeous. Spoiler: the dog doesn’t die.

There are a few twists in the story, but the writer doesn’t try to make these earth-shattering or unbelievable. One of these twists may upset some people but the author doesn’t embellish the negative side. He does seem to find it difficult for the characters to hold a natural conversation and not telegraph that they’re hiding something. The final twist, though, was unexpected but made sense; it fitted the character.

All-in-all, if you have a couple of hours to spare and want something to read that is not full of graphic violence, bad language and/or sex then I would recommend this book. I will be looking out for the other books in the Detective Dixon series.

Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.

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