New detective on the block – where does DC Max Wolfe fit into the crime genre?

imageTony Parsons’ new detective DC Max Wolfe blazes onto the crime scene in the first novel of a trilogy called The Murder Bag. But what sort of detective is he?

Well, Max fits the usual bill in many ways, single white male solving crime in London. Searching for clues while dealing with his personal problems and break up of a marriage. Sounds familiar but Parsons adds his own twist. Wolfe is a single Dad with a cute 5 year old daughter and a puppy called Stan.

Wolfe’s daughter, Scout, adds depth to his character and helps to flesh out the bones of the story by providing the detective with a plausible background and a motive for behaving as he does.

The setting of the novel may be London but again Parsons throws off stereotypes by finding new spaces to send his detective too. The investigation is run from the Saville Row branch of the police headquarters and much time is spent in the Police’s Black Museum. Alternative spaces such as the meat market and a boxing club are also frequented by the detective in his private time.

This novel is very much of its time in its uses of social media. A man claiming to be the serial killer uses social media to post messages about his crimes. This would be killer is then glorified in the media which poses some interesting questions about how powerful this new social tool can be and the extent to which it now rules our lives and the way we receive information.image

However, this novel is not content to sit in the present, it harks back through the history of crime in the Black Museum and reminds us frequently of Jack the Ripper. Parson’s even uses the Ripper’s famous ‘from Hell’ letter to invoke the brutality of the serial killer he has created. By linking his fictional killer to the country’s most notorious criminal, Parsons creates a new weight and seriousness to the crimes he is describing.

This all makes for an interesting read and Wolfe is a welcome new addition to the crime genre but this first novel does have some faults that takes away from his success. The novel at times feels a little over researched and becomes bogged down with anacronyms. The violence and procedural nature of the story also has the effect of seeming  American rather than Bristish. It is only the constant reminders of being in London that bring you back. It is also a bit of a cliche in this particular novel to find boys being abused in a public school. There are also some plot holes in the ending.

This is a powerful new entry into the crime genre and the second in the trilogy is due out shortly. There is also a website dedicated to the detective where you can explore Max’s world through interactive views of the locations in the novel.


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