The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques – Review

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By Sandra Callard

Another new crime book, and a debut for its author, is always welcome to the avid reader. The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques has an unusual setting in Lisbon, Portugal, in the present day.

With no explanation as to why or how, we learn that the citizens are classed as either Regular or Gifted. Regulars are normal people going about their ordinary lives, and Gifted people have skills way above the norm. They can see into people’s minds, they have abnormal senses and skills that the Regulars are afraid of, yet the Gifted ones are limited by law as to how they are allowed to use these gifts and can be arrested if they abuse them.

When a prominent politician is brutally killed by continually throwing his face against a glass door on a train, local Gifted police inspector, Isabel Reis and Regular inspector Aleksandr Voronov, a Russian, have the job of hunting down the murderer. Is it really a murder, or a suicide, or an arranged murder by an out-of-control Gifted person? It is an outstanding and shocking beginning.

colours of death patricia marques book review coverThe story is long and complicated. It enters the realm of politics and subterfuge, and labours greatly as to the mental condition of the Gifted female inspector, Isabel Reis. She pops pills, suffers from seriously mind blowing headaches, takes exercise on muscle wrenching runs and permanently picks up on people’s feelings, hears their thoughts and attributes colours to people. These are but a fraction of her abilities but we have to accept that this is the case as we are never told how this situation has developed.

“Could be great”

Nevertheless Isabel is a fully rounded character, as is her partner, Voronov, a totally different kettle of fish to Isabel, and their growing relationship is handled extremely well. Isabel’s language is strongly peppered with the eternal F word, even when talking to herself, and it does become a tad annoying and repetitive, but we forgive her when she finds two scraggy stray dogs, feeds them, takes them to the vet, and adopts them.

The detection part of the story often peters out and is replaced with the startling domestic cruelty scenes that Isabel suffered as a child because she was Gifted. These are explicit and horrifying and move to present day problems with her mother, sister and ex-boyfriend. These certainly do have their place in contributing as to why Isabel is how she is, but they are quite extensive and it does often leave the search for the murderer in abeyance. Quite disappointing for the readers who likes to search out the clues for themselves, or at least try to guess who the murderer is.

This is a book that could be great. It is different, puzzling and with some good characters, but it just misses the mark because its point seems to be that the murder is solved by the mystic faculties of a superhuman detective and not by much detecting at all, which is actually the best part of a detective novel.

And as an afterthought, why does it rain all the time?

‘The Colours of Death’ by Patricia Marques is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99 hardback


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