This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.
Welsh Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths returns for her second outing in Harry Bingham’s Love Story, with Murders (after 2012’s Talking to the Dead). She finds a dismembered female leg in the freezer of an old woman who has recently passed away. Fi’s investigation reveals the old woman was cranky with her neighbors but not that cranky. Then other body parts start showing up all over town, not only those belonging to the original victim, who was apparently killed about seven years earlier, but also to a recently murdered man.
Because the body parts are so widely scattered around Cardiff, the detectives pin an entire phone book up on the board to represent the list of suspects. Fi gets to the bottom of things by going “off-piste”—following her own instincts more than protocol—but not before having her own chilling encounters with the killers.
Bingham combines sharp observations (a smile is described as “so thin it was probably manufactured in an Apple design lab”) with an expanding portrait of his unique heroine. The mystery of the body parts parallels Fiona’s own struggles with Cotard’s syndrome, a rare condition that makes the afflicted think they’re dead or unable to feel certain parts of their body. Fiona is attempting to put the victims’ bodies back together just as she tries to make herself feel whole. She has surprisingly poignant reactions to harrowing situations; if she fears dying then she must still be alive. She sometimes think she’s out of touch with her feelings, but Bingham is very much in control of his characters’ inner lives.
Nerd verdict: Dark but unusually poignant Love Story