I’d been meaning to read Chris Simms for a while. His books are set in my hometown of Manchester and have a reputation of being well-researched gripping police procedurals. It was the author’s appearance at a local festival which finally spurred me into action. Savage Moon is a crime novel with a strong sense of place with an excellent balance between police work and family drama.
A farmer’s wife is savaged on the north Manchester moors and her assailant is believed by locals to be a panther roaming the countryside. DI Jon Spicer is sceptical until another victim appears with his throat ripped out in the city centre. The murdered man, Derek Peterson, had previously been subjected to an assault because of his homosexuality. As the locals begin to panic about a wild predator, Spicer finds Peterson’s murky past complicates his investigation.
A moorland setting is an evocative place for crime fiction fans but, although there’s a nod to The Hound of the Baskervilles, the book also feels resolutely northern. Of course, for Mancunians, Saddleworth Moor has a real life resonance due to the atrocities of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. But Simms cleverly ensures his plot is devious enough to draw the reader completely into his world. As it’s the first book I’ve read featuring Jon Spicer, I can’t comment on how he was as a single man. But the portrayal of him a new parent I thought was exceptional. The tensions between Spicer and his wife were believable and complemented the murder story very well. There’s a colonial element to the plot which stops the book feeling too insular and gave the reader plenty of food for thought.
Savage Moon is a great example of how you can pick up a book mid-series and be drawn into the world that the author has created. A book with a local feel but addressing universal issues.