A Song from Dead Lips, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


London, 1968. The Runaway. A young woman is found naked and strangled in an alley in well-to-do St John's Wood.

The African. The neighbours would love to pin it on the enigmatic black stranger who has just moved in.

The Pariah. Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen is convinced there's more to the case than anyone wants to admit; no-one's listening.

The Outsider. In walks WPC Helen Tozer - awkward chatterbox, farmgirl, and the first woman to enter the murder unit - and gives Breen a breakthrough.

A Song from Dead Lips is a crime thriller that shows the glorified sixties close-up, as it really was - comfortably sexist, racially prejudiced, class-bound and crawling with corruption.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9781782064190



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London in the Swinging Sixties is one of my favourite reading 'themes', so I couldn't resist this novel, even though I'm not usually drawn to detective series. For the most part, the characters and setting pass muster - neither Cathal (pronounced Cah-hal) Breen, the moody detective sergeant, or Beatles fan Helen Tozer, a probationary constable joining the boys in CID, really captured my imagination, but I was right there in late 60s London. William Shaw's descriptions, dialogue and cast of lively locals really set the scene (apart from tacking on the Beatles, which felt forced).The outcome of the investigation, however, was a bit of a let-down in my opinion. I'm torn between admiration for Shaw's double-bluff and unexpected denouement, and disappointment that he didn't keep the victim as the centre of he story. She becomes an insignificant cog in a tangential wheel. I'm not even sure if the murderer is challenging or conforming to a stereotype, but I would have preferred a more 'personal' motive for the young girl's death. Until the final few chapters, I was sure that I would want to download the next book in the series, then I decided that there isn't anything exciting or original enough to sustain my interest. And on a side-note, the free sample of audio narration was unintentionally hilarious, with Cameron Stewart's high-pitched female/young boy voice.

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