Crime has never been more rife. And by that, I mean the literary genre, NOT the act of breaking the law. Although one brief look at the news across the world, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the end of the world was nigh with all of what's going on.
It's fitting, then, that Tom Halford's Deli Meat is something of an oddity, a stand-out, a little bit different. In a market that's jam-packed with hard-boiled, poe-faced detectives all clamouring "me too!", including my own entry into the genre, being able to read a crime novel that strays from the well-trodden path is still something to cherish.
As the blurb for Deli Meat says, our hero Effie Pitts isn't your typical leading character of a crime novel.
Looking for her husband who disappeared during a bachelor trip across the border, she stumbles onto a hidden connection between a series of crimes plaguing the citizens of Plattsburgh, New York.
Tourists and shoppers have been disappearing for four years, and locals suspect that there's a villain at work. Then there's the small matter of the mysterious Pure White Hand cult. In short, she's bitten off more than she can chew.
Halford's writing style has a vivid imagination that comes through in almost everything he describes. There's a wonderful realism that borders on the sarcastic at times. Whether that's vivid imagery of scene and setting or somebody getting bundled into the back of a car, there's an energy that starts at the very beginning and doesn't let up.
And it's not caricature. Crime writing has become something of a pastiche of itself. How many times have we pictured a stoney-faced detective, cigarette drooping from their lips as they stand over a mutilated corpse? Yawn. Here we go again.
But Deli Meat offers something of a real alternative that's not corny or trite. It hits the spot, just where it hurts more often than not.
Said moment of car bundling antics stood out for me - and I loved the lines: "He wasn't worried about being seen, not any more at least. When he had begun abducting people he was sure he would be caught, but he had been shocked to find out how little attention people paid to their surroundings, especially in a parking lot."
There's a brutality there that's weighted with commentary. Yet it doesn't come across as preachy or clichéd. It's a real testimony to Halford's commitment to his style, his vigour and above all the energy that this balance continues throughout the novel.
Nicely layered with juicy subplots and characters that will keep you chewing long after you've finished, Deli Meat is a feast of a crime novel to enjoy with any meal. And if my terrible puns don't kill you, the twists will. Bon appetit.
Written by Jonathan Whitelaw
You can find out more about Tom Halford’s Deli Meat and get your own copy on Amazon!