It may not be immediately obvious from this blog (as fantasy and romance get the most mentions – when I do post, that is), but mystery, especially of the whodunit type, is another of my favourite genres. So when an email with the subject line “Meet the world’s first detective…” appeared in my inbox one day, well, let’s just say I wasn’t going to refuse a review copy of Graham Edwards‘ TALUS AND THE FROZEN KING.
Meet Talus-the world’s first detective.
A dead warrior king frozen in winter ice. Six grieving sons, each with his own reason to kill. Two weary travellers caught up in a web of suspicion and deceit.
In a distant time long before our own, wandering bard Talus and his companion Bran journey to the island realm of Creyak, where the king has been murdered. From clues scattered among the island’s mysterious barrows and stone circles, they begin their search for his killer. But do the answers lie in this world or the next?
Nobody is above suspicion, from the king’s heir to the tribal shaman, from the servant woman steeped in herb-lore to the visiting warlord whose unexpected arrival throws the whole tribe into confusion. And when death strikes again, Talus and Bran realise nothing is what it seems. Creyak is place of secrets and spirits, mystery and myth. It will take a clever man indeed to unravel the truth. The kind of man this ancient world has not seen before.
The obvious comparison (and judging by the Goodreads reviews, I’m not the only one) for Talus and Bran is to that famous detecting duo of Sherlock and Watson. Talus being the very analytical, super-observant, and well, socially-challenged Sherlock, with Bran his more impulsive and emotional sidekick. I’m in two minds as to whether this was deliberate by the author from the outset (I suspect yes, based on the promo materials), but once I had that comparison in my head, I found it very hard to shake.
While I’ve read most, if not all, of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories, I wouldn’t particularly describe myself as a fan. What I’m a fan of, however, is the BBC Sherlock series (because it’s brilliant), and as I’d watched the recent series, I had certain expectations of the characters – or characterisation. Sadly for this story, Talus and Bran didn’t have the same chemistry or charisma as the on-screen pairing of Cumberbatch and Freeman. So I don’t know – yes, it’s an unfairly high bar in terms of expectations, but the book almost sets itself up for that by forcing that comparison.
Having said that, as you’d probably expect based on the Sherlock references, the book doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s certainly an unusual setting, but anyone expecting a “proper” Neolithic-era historical mystery may be disappointed – there is modern dialogue and thinking galore. Which makes it easy reading – and this meant that despite me never really connecting with the protagonists, I found myself racing through the book to find out the who and the how. And yes, I admit I wouldn’t mind returning to this world to see what Talus and Bran do next – the door is certainly left open for more adventures.
My verdict: TALUS AND THE FROZEN KING was a light and fast-paced mystery; while it has its flaws, if you go in with the right set of expectations, I suspect it would make a good beach read.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.