Ghost in the Machine by Ed James is a well thought out and well conceived police procedural. The fact that we see events unfold through the eyes of one of the lowest cogs in the policing wheel makes for a refreshing change.
Scott Cullen, just a lowly DC, has many things to worry about, not least of which is his career path. But his desire for promotion doesn’t stop him from following his hunches, even when told categorically not to do so by his very annoying boss, DI Bain.
Of all the characters in this novel, only Bain felt a touch unreal. I felt his constant carping comments, although probably okay in moderation, were overdone. In these days of PC policing, I wasn’t convinced Bain would get away with his attitude and insults. This feeling did interfere with my enjoyment from time to time. I would strongly advise the author to tone it down slightly for the next in the series.
The use of settings to evoke both location and atmosphere is very well done. I felt as if I was right there with Scott as he moved from place to place.
Without giving away too much of the plot, it’s safe to tell you that a missing person case quickly turns into a hunt for a serial killer. There aren’t that many twists and turns, but finding out who the guilty party might be isn’t at all straightforward. The killer’s identity only becomes obvious quite late in the novel.
There is a nice use of social media to tie the victims and suspects together and we get to see how such sites work from both user and provider points of view. I’m pleased to say the technology wasn’t overpowering, as is sometimes the case when an author knows more than the reader. James used just enough techie info to make us part of the investigation but stopped well short of showing off.
There are a few minor editing issues – some words missing, others repeated. Punctuation awry in places. A bit of repetition. Nothing that a good editor wouldn’t have fixed in a jiffy. This, and my feeling that Bain wasn’t quite as credible as the rest of the cast, is all that troubled me with the book.
If there had been a four and a half star option on Amazon and Goodreads, that’s what I’d have given. I’d definitely read another one in the series.