BOOK REVIEW: THE DENTIST, BY TIM SULLIVAN
(DS George Cross #1) Published by Pacific Press (15 Jun. 2020) A homeless man. Violently strangled. No leads. Except his past.
A homeless man. Violently strangled. No leads. Except his past.
An outsider himself, DS George Cross is drawn to this case. The discovery of the dead man's connection to an old cold case then pulls Cross in further. Convinced this is where the answer to the murder lies, he sets about solving another that someone has spent the past fifteen years thinking they’ve got away with.
Cross’ relentless obsession with logic, detail and patterns is what makes him so irritatingly brilliant. It doesn’t exactly make him popular with colleagues or his superiors, though.
He has numerous enemies in the force wanting to see him fail.
Red flags are soon raised as suspicious inconsistencies and errors in the original detective’s investigation come to light. Now retired, this ex-cop has powerful friends in the force and a long-standing dislike of Cross.
Set in picturesque Bristol in the Southwest of England, it’s not long before the city reveals its dark underbelly, in a case of intriguing twists and turns whose result astonishes even those involved.
Difficult and awkward, maybe. But Cross has the best conviction rate in Avon & Somerset Police. By far. Will this case put an end to that?
The Dentist by author Tim Sullivan is an excellent first foray into the world of crime fiction, and a good, all-round police procedural that both captivates and entertains.
Sullivan’s descriptive writing is rich and visceral, and living in Bristol myself it was surreal to be able to picture exactly in my mind all the places featured in the novel. Sullivan portrays the character and atmosphere of the city perfectly, and I couldn’t help but smile at DS Cross’ penchant for neon-lycra and buzzing across Bristol on his bicycle (I know a few of these characters myself!)
DS Cross is a compelling character and being a high-functioning autistic he is, of course, perfectly attuned to detective work and the sifting through of information in search of logic and meaning.
(With his lack of empathy and emotional understanding, Cross could be considered sociopathic, and I love the fact his condition has driven him into police work. DS Cross faced with a sociopath of a different kind – you know, the psychopathic murdering kind – would be fantastic reading).
Cross was also a source of conflict for me as a character: I love his mind and his need for logic, but often found his interactions with others drawn out and painful to read. There are long and overly descriptive passages outlining Cross’ condition which seem clunky and sometimes surplus to the narrative, impacting the pace and flow of reading. I would have preferred Cross’ condition to be inferred in his behaviour and interactions, rather than purely by author description. The dynamic between Cross and his father starts to accomplish this, and I look forward to their relationship developing in subsequent novels. It is clear Sullivan has a fantastic understanding of Asperger’s and portrays it in his character well. I particularly love the café scene where Cross has his breakfast most mornings; there is a touch of the Poirot to Cross’ compulsive need to measure his breakfast and ensure his bacon is aligned just so.
There are many threads to The Dentist, one of my favourite being Cross’ investigation into his (now retired) boss’ previous handling of a murder case. I love the dynamic between Cross and his old boss, the power play between them as their roles are reversed, with the “outsider” Cross now having the upper hand on his older and bullying, incompetent ex-boss. (Having the efficacy of your entire police career questioned by the weird, loner Cross who used to be your office skivvy would make a fantastic, if somewhat tortuous knowing Cross, scene for the TV).
Before reading The Dentist, I wasn’t too enamoured by the thought of a cold case, but author Sullivan’s intricate plotting, numerous red herrings, character development, and visceral description of the landscape is engaging, and the various strands of narrative are brought together in a fabulous finale that both surprises and makes you go “damn! I missed that!”
I look forward to reading more from the DS George Cross series. If you'd like to try this first novel in a new series, you can buy it in paperback or Kindle from Amazon.
About the Author: Tim Sullivan
TIM SULLIVAN made his first short film before graduating from Cambridge University. His ambition to become a screenwriter was formed not so much by this experience but as an attempt to foil his father’s determination to turn him into a lawyer.
Within weeks of leaving university armed with a law degree he had met the film maker Derek Jarman and persuaded him to commission an original screenplay from him entitled BOB UPADOWN and so a career was born.