Caz Frear is, to use the lingo of bookstagram, an auto-buy author for me. Her series about DC Cat Kinsella of the London Metropolitan Police is excellent. Shed No Tears is the third book in the series – and I fervently hope it’s not the last!
Mini Plot Summary: A body turns up in a remote field outside of London. The remains belong to a woman who’s been missing for six years – the final victim of notorious serial killer Christopher Masters. DC Cat Kinsella and her colleagues go to work tying up the loose ends … but in doing so, they uncover inconsistencies about the original investigation that turn the entire case on its head.
What I Liked About This Book: I love that most of the primary characters in this book are all women. Cat Kinsella, our protagonist. But there’s also her boss, DCI Kate Steele, and DCI Tessa Dyer, who led the original investigation into Christopher Masters’s victims. Holly Kemp – the woman whose death Cat is investigating – also has a major presence in this book. I find it refreshing to have a cast of women, all with their own well-rounded characters and personalities and complex motivations and backstories rather than a lone woman in a pool of men.
I loved the twists and turns of the plot. I had an idea who the perpetrator was from the beginning, but I was never sure. Frear put forth so many excellent options that I was questioning my guess the entire time.
I also just adore Frear’s writing style. The prose is fast-paced but well-written – I never feel like she sacrifices quality of writing in favor of moving the story forward. And maybe fast-paced is the wrong term – I felt propelled through the book, but it still unfolded in a very orderly, unrushed manner. Frear is also so funny – the banter between Cat and her colleagues is delightful, and Cat’s observations throughout are witty and smart.
And, most of all, I love Cat Kinsella. She’s a character for the ages, I think. Such a richly imagined person, whose motivations and reactions feel so incredibly real and relatable.
What I Didn’t Like About This Book: This is not a criticism of the book, per se, it is purely my own personal preference, but I don’t like characters who make poor choices. Or, maybe, I don’t like it when characters make poor choices. “Making poor choices is realistic!” you might say. But I would say that I want my protagonists to be morally pure. (Brief tangent: Is that even true? Now I have to interrogate that claim. Because I instantly think of Gregory House, from the TV show, and he was an asshole who put his love of solving a mystery above everything else. That’s pretty morally bankrupt. Or Dexter, from the eponymous series, who is a literal serial killer; doesn’t get more amoral than murder, does it. Maybe I am fine with antiheroes, who are terrible people and don’t claim to be otherwise – Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey, Don Draper… why are all my examples men, from TV series? – but find fault with characters who are otherwise good people, who have made a simple mistake or error in judgment, and then compound the issue by not coming clean. Hmmm. I need to give more thought to why I get so prissy about some characters’ poor choices and not others.)
Cat Kinsella is, in her own words, corrupt. So I don’t like that. Listen, as I said above, I love Cat Kinsella. She’s a great character. She’s funny and smart and dedicated to her job. She has complicated relationships with her family, she cares deeply about her colleagues and loved ones. She’s dogged in her pursuit of the truth. And yet she persists in hiding her own corruption! It’s so antithetical to her character! It eats away at her! Yes, I understand it’s a major source of tension for the books, which makes for good reading, but I just want her to own up to her mistakes and deal with the consequences.
Should You Read This Book? If you are a fan of police procedurals, but you also love excellent writing and witty and complex characters, then you MUST give this entire series a read. Shed No Tears is the kind of book that makes me want to immediately pick up the first book in the series and read the whole thing straight through again.