Review: It's a Sin (Summerskill and Lyon, #1) by Steve Burford

“He is a talented and very promising young policeman. Make no mistakes, he deserves the promotion.”

But when gay Detective Sergeant Dave Lyon is assigned to Detective Inspector Claire Summerskill’s team as part of the Service’s ‘positive discrimination policy’, no-one at Foregate Street Station is happy. And that includes Summerskill and Lyon.

Mutual suspicion and mistrust must be shelved however, when a young man’s beaten body is found on a canal tow path, and a dead-end case of ‘happy slapping’ unexpectedly turns into a murder investigation.

Why would someone want to kill middle class arts student Jonathan Williams? And how is his death linked to that of rent boy and would be ‘adult’ film star Sean?

As Summerskill and Lyon’s investigations proceed, the newly-promoted detectives begin to untangle a web of connections, false assumptions and sheer prejudices that force them both to question closely not just their relationship with each other but with the rest of their colleagues at Foregate Street Station and with the Police Service as a whole.

“It’s A Sin” is the first in the “Summerskill and Lyon” police procedural novels.

This book!! I loved it. Utterly loved it. It sent me on a crime fiction reading spree which I've thoroughly enjoyed. Written in a way that combines the action storyline with the character building and emotional arc, I was hooked from beginning to end. I went searching on GR for more books by this author and was disappointed not to find any.

First I feel I ought to state that this is not a romance - only because I know many of the blog followers like a good romance. This is a crime fiction book in which we meet Dave Lyon and Claire Summerskill, both as they are moving into new positions where they need to prove themselves. Both having to prove themselves just that little bit more; one because she is female, the other because he is gay. It's not overt, that extra push they have to give, but both are a step out of the white, straight, male bracket that society accepts so readily. Of course, this is only the first in the series, so I'm hoping that relationships will develop and evolve as more books are produced.
'"It was thought," he said finally, "that you might be sympathetic. To the situation of... minorities."
Claire regarded him incredulously. "Because I'm a woman?
"No," said Chief Inspector Madden, with benign reasonableness, "because you're Welsh." '
The second thing I want to mention is that there was something undeniably British about this book. I don't even know what specifically made me feel like that. Just because a book is set this side of the pond doesn't mean it necessarily feels particularly of the country, many feel generic - change a couple of spellings and brand names and they could be set in another country. I don't dislike books like this at all, but there is something about a book when it feels British, it has an emotionally evocative air. It feels right - familiar - in the core of me. Kind of like when you catch the the whiff of an aroma that sets off your memory. Sometimes it's very specific, other times it's just a general feeling of childhood, or schooldays, or happy times. Do you know what I mean? Nope? Lost you at the last turn, huh? TL;DR for this para: it felt British, it felt like home.

 Each character in this book was real, rounded and wonderfully written. Claire is the first female character who didn't get on my very last nerve that I've read in along time. She wasn't a caricature, she was someone to whom I could relate. I didn't skim read her pages while rolling my eyes, I was just as invested in her story as Dave's.
'He sighed. "Do you know when a gay man stops coming out? Never. You start a new job, you move to a new flat, you meet someone in a pub. Sooner or later someone says something like, 'So do you have  a wife? A girlfriend? Children?' And you have to decide, do you hedge, do you lie, or do you live an honest life. I decided years ago I wanted to live an honest life."'
I had to stop for a moment when I read this paragraph. Not because I was suddenly being hit by an unknown truth, but because I had this conversation with my brother and it sticks with me. It's not even about open prejudice, but about assumption. People can be open and accepting and not give two hoots about a person's sexuality - but as the general default thought is people are straight, there is a degree of explaining to do with every new person. Which must be quite tiring, as is any kind of repetitive explanation. Especially when you can never quite be sure what the reaction to the information might be.

I think it was the draw of these two characters - characters I understood and believed in - coupled with a twisting storyline which kept me guessing, that won this story for me. I really can't wait until the next one comes out.

A copy of this story was given in exchange for an honest review.
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Check out more information from the author and read an excerpt from "It's a Sin"

Author Bio

Steve Burford lives in one of the less well-to-do areas of Malvern mentioned in the novel. When not writing in a variety of genres under a variety of names, he tries to teach drama to teenagers. He has only occasionally been in trouble with the police.

©Steve Burford 2016
All rights reserved

Three people walked past him on the canal path that cold November morning before anyone realised something was wrong.

The first, a professional man, out early for the morning paper, saw him sitting under the small footbridge that crossed the narrow strip of dark water. He took in the face-concealing hoodie, the flashy and doubtless ridiculously expensive trainers, and kept as far away from him as he possibly could without actually walking on the water itself. The skin on the back of his neck prickled nervously as he walked past the youth, and the Guardian was rolled tight in his fist ready to beat the lad off if he leapt on him from behind. But the slouched figure remained immobile, his back to the bridge’s crumbling brickwork, and the man passed by unscathed, relieved and curiously exhilarated.

A young mother pushing her pram had been next. She hesitated when she came upon the sitting figure, glanced nervously at the precious bundle in front of her, then steeled herself and marched straight past him, arms stiff, pram a small juggernaut. She passed safely, and laughed a little to herself at the frantic hammering of her heart and her breathlessness. She cooed nonsense to her child about ‘silly mummys’, and inwardly vowed never to go that way again at that time of the morning.

It was the elderly man walking his dog, diligently employing his pooper scooper, who wondered what a young lad would be doing sitting on the damp grass, propped against a dripping stone wall so early in the day, and who asked himself if, maybe, something might be wrong. He moved a little closer, pulling slightly at the dog suddenly grown restive on its lead. Perhaps the boy was drunk. Well, he’d had a couple of mornings like that himself when he’d been that age. Or maybe he was stoned or high or whatever the hell they called it nowadays. And what were you supposed to do then? He hesitated. His dog whined.

And then it hit the old man: what if the boy in front of him was dead?

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