Friday, 6 September 2019

Book review : Ashes to Ashes - Paul Finch

I'm a big lover of crime fiction but this one took me a while to get into. I almost gave up after the first third, which presents a series of horrific crimes in which seemingly random victims are burned to death by a (presumably) man in protective clothing with a flamethrower. Who are the victims ? Who is the killer ? And why are they being targetted ? It didn't really seem to be going anywhere and the victims were dead within a couple of pages each time, so I didn't even feel sorry for them. I'm really pleased that I didn't give up though, as it picks up halfway through and becomes absolutely unputdownable for the final third.

At the start of the book, Heck (aka DS Heckenburg, appearing here in his sixth novel) is in disguise, out watching the block of flats where target John Sagan is hiding out. Sagan is a vicious brute - a torturer for hire, who has terrorised and mutilated numerous victims. With all his team on tenterhooks, Heck can't believe it when a couple of policemen from another brigade walk straight up to his door and knock on it. All hell breaks loose and he gets away.

After some intense police work, his trail is picked up and Heck is sent off to Bradburn - Heck's home town, that he never thought he'd go back to. His parents are both dead and he wasn't even invited to the funeral. He has a lot of issues to deal with. His personal problems pale into insignificance though when he sets his sights on the evil killer. 

It's the kind of novel that I think of as a Hollywood blockbuster - it's filled with huge amounts of action, gallons of petrol being flung around and set on fire, huge shootouts between numerous bad guys ... and the hero of the moment, DS Heck, emerging through the flames and smoke with nothing but a couple of scratches and a streak of soot across his face ! Heck comes across ruthless gangland bosses but manages to outplay them (most of the time) and get them onside, providing him with key information. Sometimes it all seems a bit too far-fetched - cats may have nine lives but he seems to have about ninety nine !

Other characters paled into insignificance - his sister, whose house he ends up staying in, is on holiday for the entire duration of the novel; his old ex from his school days, who puts in an appearance, just drops back out again ; he and his boss, who is also his ex, seem to have a constant game of only being interested in each other when the other isn't ... Heck doesn't really seem to be good at being a team-player so, both personally and professionally, he always seems to prefer doing things all by himself.

It's an enjoyable read, if you can make it through the first third, but I think maybe I would have felt more compassion for Heck if I'd read the previous books.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (6 April 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007551290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007551293
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3 x 19.8 cm


  1. I know Paul Finch, and have read some of his stories in short stories anthologies, I think. Had a quick look at the Heck list of books in order, and I don't think I've read any. Might keep an eye on his crime books, when I'm in The Works next time. Sounds like something I would find gripping.

    1. I kept getting the feeling that I'd read some of his work before, but looking on Goodreads, this is actually the first of his books I've read.

  2. Sounds like my kind of book, i do enjoy crime stories, have looked at other reviews of his book, and now have a reading list


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