SINS OF THE FATHERS is sixteenth in a series of novels featuring a team of Lancashire detectives headed by Detective Chief Inspector Woodend, and set in the 1960s. I had not read any of the previous novels, but this didn't stop me enjoying this well-plotted and brisk police-procedural.
Three men go climbing in the Lake District and get caught in a severe blizzard. One of them dies. Three years later, one of the survivors, mattress magnate (yes, seriously) Bradley Pine is discovered in a layby, having been brutally murdered. Pine had just been selected as the local Conservative party candidate, so his position is filled by the second candidate, Henry Marlowe, who also happens to be the region's Chief Constable and Woodend's boss. There is no love lost between the two men, but recognising Woodend's abilities as a detective, Marlowe assigns him the case, with instructions not to dig into the dead man's past. The first thing Woodend does, therefore, is to dig into Pine's past.
As well as the crime-solving aspects, the book also strongly features the personal lives of the detectives, young and old, male and female, in Woodend's team. There is clearly a strong back-story that has developed in the previous books, but Sally Spencer efficiently puts new readers in the picture, and draws us in to the current dramas of the small team. I also liked the character of the journalist who has been a nemesis to one of the team in the past and looks to be set to continuing her role in future books; and the inevitable quirky pathologist is also an engaging addition to the story.
Fans of Ruth Rendell's Wexford series, or Hazel Holt's Sheila Mallory books, are likely to enjoy Sally Spencer. I certainly did, even though the identity of the criminal did not gel for me on a motivational level, the plot is neat, spare and unpretentious. The writing is pacy, the characters and their lives convincing, and I look forward to reading more of this professional series.