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The Dentist

· Mystery Reviews,4 Stars

DS Cross Crime Thrillers, Book 1 • Tim Sullivan • ★★★★

Although the Englishman lives in North London, Tim Sullivan has Hollywood résumé as long as my arm, having worked with A-list actors and directors in both film and television. Despite his background—or perhaps because of it—The Dentist never feels like it's trying too hard to be made into a movie.

There are plenty of juicy parts in The Dentist for actors to sink their teeth into should the need arise, however. DS Cross is an autistic detective sergeant, and there's a cast of well-drawn characters around him who are in turn flummoxed and deeply impressed by the phenomenal results he achieves. The reluctant partner, the ambitious boss, and the wide-eyed rookie (not to mention the father who should be on an episode of Hoarders) are all clearly defined and great to spend time with. The suspects aren't all as fun, and it's clear where the investigation is focusing much too early.

The narrative is a bit bumpy in the first two or three chapters, however, as the reader is told of DS Cross's thought processes. I felt like we could have seen more interactions to reveal this, as several long prose paragraphs read more like a backgrounder and less like a novel. I hate to sound like a high school creative writing teacher, but "show don't tell" could go a long way toward improving these sections.

Once the plot picks up—which it does quite early—we're off. The book is impossible to put down. Even when we're not rocketing through the investigation, the sense of curiosity (and sometimes dread) of what will happen next propelled me forward.

And just when I thought Cross had caught the perpetrator, there were more twists. I almost felt like I was watching a good episode of The Closer, the way DS Cross interviews the suspects.

Alas, the reader isn't shown a crucial piece of evidence before the ending reveal, which spoiled the ending of an otherwise extremely satisfying book. The book could also do with another round of proofreading—quite a few tense changes and punctuation problems (missing commas, commas instead of periods) marred the enjoyment of the read too.

One also wonders exactly how the co-workers of DS Cross are allowed to be so insensitive and intolerant to his basic needs. Surely HR has trainings on these sorts of things. The way that he's treated in the work environment feels a touch anachronistic.

Still, there's a lot to like about The Dentist, and I've already bought the next book in the series. Strong characters and a crackling plot made this a great way to spend an afternoon.

Paul Austin Ardoin

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