Set in Somerset, southwest England, this insightful
detective story explores crime in a rural community and how
politics is never far away. DEAD LEVEL refers to the
Somerset Levels, a broad expanse of peat marsh which
absorbs winter rain to flood and can make travel hazardous.
Nick Dixon drives a Land Rover but even this copper finds
it tough going to get through the flooded roads.
Dixon is re-opening a case of a death in 1994, because
forensic science has improved and new evidence may arise. I
like that he has Type 1 diabetes but this is just a routine
part of life. DI Dixon is living cheerfully with DC Jane
Winter and they swap notes on cases. Then, on Christmas
Eve, the body of a woman is found, killed viciously in a
presumed burglary. What makes this complicated is that she
is the wife of Tom Perry, a political candidate in the
References to a controversial case explain why Dixon is not
called upon to pursue the matter when the lower status
policewoman is. Dixon is sidelined due to a disciplinary
proceeding which is described scantily but sufficiently.
The senior investigating officer is also a woman, DI Janice
Courtenay. Countering this image we find that Elizabeth
Perry had taken degrees but gave up work to become a
politician's wife. Satellite images and road cameras help
the police make sense of routes but the undredged river
threatens to burst its dykes in the pouring rain, so hasty
precautions are being taken by locals and some roads are
inaccessible. Of course, the media arrive; also it's
I found DEAD LEVEL very well written, not only to convey
the humanity of the characters amid the forensic form, but
to depict the grief which accompanies a cruel death and the
rigours of the policing job at Christmastime and New Year.
Family plans have to take a back seat to poring over the
minutiae of someone else's family life in search of motive
and opportunity. The only snag I found with the writing is
that names Janice or Jan and Jane are easy to confuse. The
outdoor element is strong with cliff climbing, rivers,
flooded fields and tides. We also learn about being a
political candidate, but these sessions are alternated with
Author Damien Boyd is a solicitor and has worked in
criminal law, including the Crown Prosecution Service,
bringing his experience to this intelligent, painstaking
police procedural. Damien Boyd has gained my admiration
with DEAD LEVEL and modern crime fans should grab this one
fast. I hope to read more from DI Nick Dixon in the future.
In the early hours of Christmas Eve, the wife of
parliamentary candidate Tom Perry is brutally murdered in an
apparent burglary gone wrong.
With the by-election
campaign about to start in earnest, and the festive season
in full swing, torrential rain brings with it flood warnings
on the Somerset Levels.
Suspended on full pay and
transferred to the cold case unit, Detective Inspector Nick
Dixon is languishing on the sidelines as the investigation
into Elizabeth Perry’s murder unravels and the floodwaters
Returning to duty, Dixon is convinced that the
answer lies hidden in Tom Perry’s political life, but why
was Elizabeth the target and not her husband? The more Dixon
uncovers, the further he is from finding the
Dead Level is the fifth novel in Damien
Boyd’s addictive DI Nick Dixon Crime Series.