commissaire inspector dottore

a bibliography of detective-inspector novels

robert bryndza

the erika foster series

The Girl in the Ice. Ickenham: Bookouture [StoryFire], 2016.
 ∴  Dziewczyna w lodzie. Translated by Emilia Skowronska. Poznan: Filia, 2016.
 ∴  Das Mädchen im Eis. Translated by Norbert Möllemann and Charlotte Breuer. München: Penguin, 2017.

The Night Stalker. Ickenham: Bookouture [StoryFire], 2016.
 ∴  Nocny stalker. Translated by Emilia Skowronska. Poznan: Filia, 2016.

Dark Water. Ickenham: Bookouture [StoryFire], 2016.

Last Breath. Ickenham: Bookouture [StoryFire], 2017.

Cold Blood. Kindle, 2017.

Robert Bryndza's Girl in the Ice represents the dead center – no pun intended – of the detective-inspector novel. Erika Foster is a DCI in the London police force – a Detective Chief Inspector. Detective Inspectors and lower-grade uniformed cops report to her, calling her "boss." She in turn reports to Chief Superintendent Marsh, a blustery type who continually tries to derail her investigations. Marsh answers to unseen higher forces, at levels where every investigation is political and most of them corrupt.

Foster is thus a classic middle manager. She's hemmed in but at the same time paradoxically free. Her subordinates – a sharp black detective named Peterson and a simpatico gay white woman named Moss – are loyal extensions of Foster's will. Marsh, though no fool, is hamstrung by political considerations (the worse because the central case is the murder of the daughter of a Labour peer). Foster, who would seem to be the most hemmed in by considerations of institutional chains of command, finds instead that her native distrust of authority leads her in maverick directions.

And so we see Foster pursuing forbidden directions, going in without backup, following up dubious leads from fabulating witnesses, going off-script at the inevitable press conferences, and at one point having to turn in her badge and gun. Well, her badge, at any rate; it's London and she typically carries no gun.

While on suspension, Foster is freer than ever. Aided by Moss and Peterson, who remain more loyal to her personally than to the faceless institution, abet her in her eccentric sleuthing. For the top cops and their politician supervisors, the case must be a simple matter of a jealous, homicidal boyfriend. Boyfriends present themselves, one uglier than the next, but they all seem to have alibis. Foster realizes that the truth must be socially and politically messier. Human trafficking is involved, and serial killings that nobody's pieced together because the victims – Eastern European prostitutes – are powerless, with nobody to advocate for them alive or dead.

If I seem to be critiquing The Girl in the Ice as formulaic, I don't mean at the same time to disparage it. It's got a suspenseful plot and a well-hidden perpetrator. It's a true mystery, in that we're presented with a cast of plausible suspects and we must think along with Foster as she searches for the true killer. In a similar detective-inspector procedural like Roseanna or Mördare utan ansikte, the killer might come out of nowhere, out of the vague evils bred by a society in decay. In The Girl in the Ice, the killer comes from within, from the structure, indeed the hierarchy, of the established community.

The Girl in the Ice touches on themes like gay rights and marriage equality; immigration (particularly from Eastern Europe; several characters, including Foster herself, are Slovak); violence against women; and the welfare state (the initial discovery of the first corpse is made by a "workfare" lad reporting for his shift at a public park). It's a progressive and thoughtful Krimi.