DM For Murder – Matt Bendoris

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BLURB: Ten million Twitter followers. One killer. Bryce Horrigan, a Brit made good in America, makes a living rubbing people up the wrong way. He revels in antagonising guests on his TV talk show, and the thousands of death threats he’s received on Twitter are a badge of honour. But when the controversial TV host is shot dead, it leaves the authorities with one hell of a dilemma. After all, where do you start investigating millions of suspects? Detective Sorrell has to separate the keyboard warriors from the real killer… who begins tweeting cryptic clues. As the investigation and media storm build, Sorrell discovers a British journalist from Horrigan’s past may hold the key…

Ten Million Followers. One Killer.

Okay, from the book which will, in all probability, be my favourite debut of the year, to another absolute corker . I’m sure you’ve heard people say they’d write a book “but they just don’t have the time”. Perhaps they should take a lesson from Matt Bendoris, who wrote this on his BlackBerry on his 25-minute commute to and from work (he’s Senior Features Editor at The Sun here in Scotland, and he has a family, so really, if he can do it anyone can. I believe EL James also used a BlackBerry, but there, you’ll be pleased to hear, the comparison ends.) I suspect, though, that most people are struggling with ideas, rather than time. That’s definitely not a problem for Matt – he’s come up with a thoroughly modern story, in which Twitter plays a large part. Technophobes need not worry; our investigating officer, Capt Sorrell, has no idea what a tweet is at the start of the investigation. I do love the homage to Hitchcock in the title, though. It reminds us that, despite modern technology, which can aid (or, sometimes, hinder) the police, a murder investigation is still, at it’s most base, a (sometimes laborious) search for a killer.

And boy, do they have a lot of suspects for the shooting in a Baltimore hotel of Bryce Horrigan, a Scottish journalist-turned-TV-host/shock-jock (I pictured Piers Morgan, with a dash of Howard Stern, and Craig Ferguson’s accent.) He’s a controversial figure as he takes every opportunity he can to push his pretend pro-choice agenda, which obviously puts him at loggerheads with the US pro-life lobby – and attracts a hundred thousand death threats on Twitter, of which he boasts! So when he’s found dead, they’ve got a lot of suspects to rule out (or in!) And of course, the people in his personal and working life, and those in his past, need to be investigated and eliminated. It’s a detective’s nightmare.

Journalists Connor “Elvis” Presley and April Lavender knew Bryce – he worked with them at Glasgow’s Daily Chronicle before he moved to London as an editor, then to the US as a TV host. They’re a great double act: the thrice-married April, who’s been in journalism for 30 years, and Connor, who joined the Chronicle at the same time as Bryce, and went to London with him, only to return after two years, disillusioned with the big city (and Bryce turning into a prick…!) With Bryce having worked there, and Elvis and April knowing his long term ex, Patsy “Pasty” Tolan well, the Chronicle send Elvis to the States, while April talks to Pasty – who was unceremoniously dumped after 27 years – to get the inside story on what Bryce was like to live with.

The short, snappy chapters – each presumably written on a commute! – told from different character’s perspectives: Connor, April, Sorrell, a suspect – make for a story that zips along. It’s one of those ” just one more chapter…” books, and, as well as being wickedly funny, has some well-fleshed characters, as well as the customary violent denouement. In short, it’s got everything you could want in a book – which is probably why it made the shortlist of six for the Deanston Scottish Crime Book Of The Year, which was announced at Bloody Scotland last weekend. It was up against such experienced writers as Chris Brookmyre, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Ann Cleeves, and Craig Russell (who won, with The Ghosts Of Altona.) Read this book. I defy you not to love it.