Review: Deep Shelter by Oliver Harris (5/5)

Friday 2 May 2014

London is steaming under a summer of filthy heat and sudden storms - and Detective Nick Belsey, of Hampstead CID, is trying to stay out of trouble.

But then somebody sets him a riddle. How does a man walk into a dead-end alley and never come out? How does he disappear?

And then reappear - to snatch a girl, to dump a body beneath a London skyscraper, to send Belsey a package of human hair.

The answer lies underground, where the secrets degenerating beneath the city's sickly glitter are about to see the light of day.

To say I was excited to read this book would be an understatement. I joined Twitter just over a month ago and since then my to read list has probably doubled. However few books jumped out at me more than this one. So I was beyond thrilled when the author sent me a copy to review (and signed!). First however I bought book one from Amazon, The Hollow Man which if you haven't read it yet is reviewed on the blog here. I absolutely loved The Hollow Man. I finished my review for it by saying that if this book was as good as the first then I would have a new favourite detective in Belsey and a new favourite author in Oliver Harris. Well it wasn't just as good it was better! Belsey is a fantastic creation and one that I loved reading about. I think that Harris's books would work great on TV. I also hope this isn't the last we will see of Belsey, crime fiction fans yet to read The Hollow Man or Deep Shelter should really do so ASAP. Deep Shelter can be read as a standalone but personally I would read book one first.

The book opens with Belsey looking to relax at the end of the day when he ends up in a high speed chase with a BMW. The chase ends with a pursuit to what Belsey knows to be a dead end, a cul de sac next to a Costa Coffee. When Belsey enters the cul de sac however the person he was chasing has vanished. It turns out however that there's a building by the Costa Coffee which leads down to an old bomb shelter. Belsey is on restrictive duties due to events from book one and so asks his new boss, who just happens to be an old flame, Kirsty Craik for a warrant but it is refused.

Now I started this book shortly after reading a Guardian article which Transworld books Tweeted about saying that there should be more clean-cut detectives in crime fiction. Well, I couldn't think of anything worse and what Belsey does is borrow a police car, an axe, some bolt cutters and a torch and goes off to break into the bomb shelter himself. If he was clean cut where would the good bits of the story come from? Sitting around doing the paperwork? As Belsey's living arrangements are a bit dubious he takes a date (of course it's a girl he previously arrested) to the shelter where she proceeds to be kidnapped and Belsey finds himself trapped before emerging in St Pancras library. Belsey then receives emails from someone calling themselves the Ferryman (a Cold War spy) and also finds an old military magazine in the stolen BMW. Other things then happen which have a connection to the Cold War and it becomes clear how the underground tunnels are connected.

What doesn't become clear however is who the Ferryman is and why people connected to the war are being murdered. Belsey and Craik are warned off investigating further and Belsey questions whether it could be some sort of government conspiracy. Now I have to confess at the first mention of the Cold War and spies etc I thought it might be hard for me to follow. I've never read an espionage novel as I just find them too information heavy but the story here was easy to follow and was actually quite gripping. I am a huge Tube nerd and spend most of my time in London underground. I have spent many hours Googling about tunnels underneath the city and about abandoned tube stations and this book has just heightened my desire to learn more.

Belsey is definitely my kind of character. He is just a magnet for trouble and for me he is the best type of character to read about. The other characters are also strong, Craik in particular. Belsey feels like a very unique character, as does the whole story in fact. Harris is a very talented author and has once again spun a very intriguing tale. I am just wondering how he will manage to better this book. It's certainly one of my most favourite crime reads of the past few months and one that I hope crime fiction fans will pick up and read.

You can buy the book from Amazon and follow the author on Twitter

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