Corporate lawyer James Hazel quit his job specialising in commercial litigation and employment law in order to write and, if that was a risk, it has paid off as his debut novel sees him as a welcome addition to the quality British crime-writing market. The man’s enthusiasm for crime thrillers comes across strongly in the first of a projected series featuring lawyer Charlie Priest.
Hazel’s hero has a disassociation disorder which causes him to float in and out of (usually stressful) situations so they feel less “real” to him. This genetic condition has led to a family tragedy in his past and Priest has moved from crime-solving as a former policeman to building up a successful law practice.
Priest discovers he is embroiled in some dark deeds when a ruthless burglar breaks into his apartment looking for a flash drive. This leads to a situation which originates from Nazi medical experimentation towards the end of the Second World War and theories on suffering and torture. It seems that there is a British revival of these theories going on and a dried insect (of the title) is some kind of invitation to participate.
There seems a blend of styles here from a man who obviously knows his crime fiction yet the chill factor is continuously upped until we get to the horror/crime feel of Thomas Harris and his Hannibal Lecter novels. It’s handled confidently and well, although Hazel might want to rethink his sex scene writing in his next novel as one here is particularly clunky and seems jarring to the flow of the novel.
The disassociation aspect is interesting and by no means overplayed here which would imply that Hazel has plenty of mileage to use this in subsequent Priest novels. The climax tests plausibility somewhat but doesn’t cross the boundary into unlikely so all in all a strong debut. Those looking for a new quality crime series and for some summer chills may wish to seek this out.
The Mayfly is published on 15th June by Zaffre. Many thanks to the publishers for the advance review copy.