Sat 26 May 2012
ERIC WRIGHT – Death By Degrees. Charlie Salter #10. Scribner’s, US, hardcover, 1993. Worldwide, US, paperback, 1995. Doubleday, Canada, hardcover, 1993. Bantam Seal, Canada, paperback (shown).
In Charlie Salter, Wright has created one of the more credible and likable policemen of modern detective fiction. I’m delighted — though somewhat surprised — that the books haven’t been driven off the shelves by the plethora of Big Cop and serial killer books that have appeared of late.
Charlie’s father has fallen and suffered a head injury, and probably had a stroke as well. Charlie is somewhat surprised to find himself distraught to the point of being unable to function; his relationship with the old man had not been close.
To take his mind off his troubles, and a report he’s working on that has been eating him alive, he volunteers to investigate a killing at a local non-degree college. At first thought to be a cut-and-dried robbery, its status is now in doubt because of a series of anonymous notes pointing toward involvement of some university personnel.
In between all night stays at the hospital, Charlie begins to snuffle around in the halls academe, and introduce himself to the intrigues of academic bureaucracy.
For me, the Salter books have a number of strong points, Charlie and his family — his wife, their two sons, his irascible father and his common-law wife — have all been developed over the course of the series into fully fleshed-out human beings, in whom the reader can be interested, and for whom it is possible to care.
There is real police work, accomplished without violence or pyrotechnics. And Wright writes well. It’s an excellent series.
Editorial Comment: I concur, as my review of The Night the Gods Smiled, the first of the Charlie Salter series, should tell you. I won’t repeat it here, but following the review is a complete bibliography of all of Eric Wright’s crime fiction.