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Posts Tagged ‘Cotard’s syndrome’

LOVE STORY, WITH MURDERS by Harry Bingham: Book Review

Friends and subscribers to my blog know that I read a lot of mysteries, three or four a week.  Not every book I read gets reviewed, as I write only about the ones I would recommend.

So when I write that Love Story, with Murders is an absolutely outstanding mystery, please believe me.

Love Story, with Murders follows Fiona Griffiths, a young Welsh detective, as she and her colleagues try to solve two gruesome, similar, but difficult-to-connect murders in Cardiff.  On a slow winter day, called to investigate an insignificant incident involving illegal trash, Fiona is examining  rubbish in a garage when she opens the freezer chest there and finds a human leg, complete with high-heeled shoe.  Judging from its appearance, it’s been there a long time.

The day following this grisly discovery another body part is found, an arm.  But this is a man’s arm, and the person to whom it belonged is only very recently dead.  When Fiona canvasses the area where she discovered the female leg, she enters a neighboring shed and finds a woman’s head in a bucket of oil.  The police discover that the head and leg belonged to Mary Langton, a young woman who disappeared five years earlier.

I know this sounds incredibly bizarre, but keep reading.  The key ingredient that makes this book so special is the heroine, Fiona.  As in the first mystery in the series, Talking to the Dead, she tells the story and is the center that holds everything together.

(Spoiler Alert:  What we didn’t know until the end of Talking to the Dead is that Fiona has Cotard’s Syndrome/aka Cotard’s Delusion or the Walking Corpse Syndrome).  Those suffering from this mental illness believe they are not alive, are missing body parts, don’t recognize themselves in the mirror, and/or have great difficulty experiencing both emotions and purely physical effects such as heat, cold, or pain.  So severe was Fiona’s case that she spent two of her teenage years in a mental hospital.

Because Fiona is telling the story, the reader is privy to all her thoughts.  We can understand her emotional issues and the questions she has about her past.  Fiona was found abandoned in a car that belonged to a Cardiff “businessman” and his wife.  She was nicely dressed, seemed to be about two or two and half years old, and had a camera around her neck; there was no other information with her.  The couple adopted her, and they and her two younger sisters are Fiona’s family.

The reason for the quotes around the word businessman is that Fiona’s father is involved in many illegal activities.  He’s been brought before the police on several occasions and was even brought to trial twice, but he was not convicted in either case.  Fiona is devoted to him, and the devotion is mutual, but she feels that he knows more about her background than he is willing to share.  So she’s determined to start investigating her past on her own.

Harry Bingham has written a mystery that succeeds on every level–its characters and plot are compelling.  Love Story, With Murders is a wonderfully written novel, and you will be cheering for Fiona every step of the way.

You can read more about Harry Bingham and how he developed his heroine at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.