My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The author draws upon his personal experiences during his thirty-year career that took him police cadet to Divisional Commander of the Brighton and Hove police force to show us every aspect of policing. His account gets very personal at times and often draws parallels between real cases and incidents and the stories and characters that we can read in the novels of prolific crime fiction writer, Peter James.
Graham Bartlett and his predecessor, Dave Gaylor, have advised Peter James on police procedures and authenticity. In fact, Mister James modelled his main protagonist, Roy Grace, on the career path of Dave Gaylor.
There are many anecdotes, revelations, insights and confessions in this book. When I say “confessions,” I am talking about mistakes that Graham and his colleagues made, especially early in their careers. Let’s face it, without mistakes, we would never learn and we would never improve. Life is cruel, and some of our errors will follow us to the grave thanks to the thoughtfulness of our closest friends and colleagues. There is one such instance in this book which particularly amused me. One of Graham’s colleagues missed a most obvious cause of death and was reminded of it by the Chief Constable on the occasion of his dining out from the force many years later. You’ll have to read the book to find out about that one.
Graham also reveals much about his family, which tells us how he was inspired by previous generations to become a police officer in the first place. His emotions come to the fore as he describes the torment that he and his wife went through as they strove to produce a family. Their eventual success is very emotional. A career in and service puts huge strains on family life and Graham’s strong love shines for his wife and children shines through his account of all that goes on around him in his job.
There were many aspects of policing which resonated with me and my own career in the Army. I could understand what he was going through, especially the need for black humour to take one through dark episodes.
The chapter which lends itself to the title of the book describes what the author believes to be probably the most difficult situation for any police officer: informing a family of the death of one of their nearest and dearest and the many ways in which that news is received. It is awful. Graham describes it so well that it is impossible for the reader to escape from the emotion of that moment.
The only reason that I awarded this book four stars rather than five, is that, for me, there were far too many references to Peter James’s books, comparing real police incidents to “… just as in by Peter James.” Sometimes, I had to read back to figure out whether I was in James’s land of fiction or in Bartlett’s world of reality. As I haven’t read any of James’s books, I found this to be a bit irritating and distracting. However, if did have the desired effect of making me want to read some of those stories.
On the other hand, those who are very familiar with Roy Grace’s fictional cases may find their reading experience enhanced by all the links to real policing experiences around Brighton and Hove.
I highly recommend this book to all lovers of crime fiction and non-fiction.
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