When the perpetually depressed DCI Jericho is asked to get involved with ailing reality show Britain’s Got Justice he is less than happy but he goes along with it because he’s given no choice. While this is going on he is being sent Tarot cards featuring various images of a hanged man. The show goes as disastrously as expected, with Jericho being made to look as incompetent as possible by the show’s makers, particularly as one of the show’s contestants has been kidnapped by a killer who rather enjoys performing torture experiments on people (just to see how much of it they can take). As more Tarot cards arrive Jericho realises that they have a link to some mysterious deaths that, in turn, are linked to him by blood. As the show progresses things get worse for Jericho and when a colleague that he is having an affair with disappears, leaving him as a suspect, he goes on the run in a desperate attempt to prove his innocence and work out who and why he is being targeted, setting up a final confrontation with the murderer.
This is the first Douglas Lindsay I have read and it won’t be the last, because I like his prose style and his facility with storytelling, both of which are excellent, but it will be the last DCI Jericho story I read. As much as I tried to warm to Jericho I simply couldn’t. His depression makes him surly and rude, and he spends much of the first half of the book just staring at people he doesn’t like (more or less everyone), which would be fine if he had other elements to his character that made him compelling – a way with words, a sense of duty, a brilliance of detection, or even a certain amount of self-deprecation – but he has none of these. Alas, he is a charisma vacuum throughout the entire novel.
Being a noir person, I can deal with detestable protagonists as long as there’s something about them, however minor, that I can warm to. I just couldn’t warm Jericho at all. Normally this would be the kiss of death to me finishing the story, but I have to say that Lindsay’s narrative was beautifully paced and his writing style is as smooth as warm butter, and these were enough to keep me flipping the pages. The last quarter of the book is a lesson in how to keep a story driving forward at an ever greater pace, at which point the last of my objections to Jericho became null and void and I just enjoyed the story.
I can’t highly recommend WETHM because of my issues with the character of DCI Jericho, but I can recommend it because Lindsay’s narrative and smooth prose style are excellent and he does know how to tell a story well.