I’m not a fan of Jeffery Archer as a person, but he has written some great novels. His latest crime thriller Over My Dead Body illustrates many glimpses of his keen ability to develop police procedural plots with complexity and pace. Overall, though, this was a book that left me frustrated and shaking my head.
Typical of me, I’m jumping into a series at book four. That said, Over My Dead Body does have the feel of a standalone book, precisely because at this point, Commander Hawksby, aka The Hawk, has established the Unsolved Murder Unit, a cold case investigation team led by Chief Inspector William Warwick. The other team members include Detective Inspector Ross Hogan, DS Paul Adaja, DS Jackie Roycroft and DC Rebecca Pankhurst. Warwick and Hogan are the real compelling characters in the team; William for his analytical style and investigative talent, and Hogan for his unique perspectives having been an undercover agent for a long time.
The book starts with William and his wife Beth travelling first-class on a cruise liner to New York. Also onboard are the Buchanan family, who own the ship and the Pilgrim Line. Chairman of the Pilgrim Line is Fraser Buchanan, who dies at dinner one evening – was he poisoned or had a heart attack. The captain, doctor, and some family members seem keen to accept a heart attack and to have Fraser buried at sea without an autopsy. Fortunately, William Warwick is on hand, and if the Gods hadn’t already had a bet on William to solve the murder, along comes James Buchanan, Fraser’s grandson, and someone who admired his grandfather. James wants to be an FBI agent drawing on his astute powers of observation and analysis and conveniently provides all the missing pieces that William needs to prove murder.
Another story thread starts, where William realises that a master thief, and his nemesis Miles Faulkner, whom he presumed dead, has altered his name and appearance (now Captain Ralph Neville) and intends to marry someone close to Beth. Realising he’s been copped, Miles makes a run for it, and the team give chase. When that concludes, the team splits up the cold cases within the unit, and each member leads an investigation. Each case brings its own twisty and fast-paced drama, although some of the antics are as odd as a bottle of chips.
There are great moments to enjoy the storytelling craft from Jeffery Archer, but this book as a piece of work felt far too disjointed. It was almost as if the first 30% was a separate short story. Not really a book I could recommend, but many others have enjoyed this book. I want to thank Harper Collins and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.