Gentleman Jack
PublisherSalt Publishing
Date Published15 October 2018
Price£ 7.99

Gentleman Jack

by Christina James

DC Ricky Macfadyen rescues an agricultural businessman who is being beaten up in the street but who refuses to press charges.  When DI Tim Yates and Macfadyen visit his site they see a quad that might have been stolen, but the investigation soon takes second place when the headless body of a woman is found in a canal.


Christina James chooses the setting of Lincolnshire for her new DI Tim Yates crime novel. Having done so, she has little option, once she has decided on large-scale theft as a theme, to choose agricultural machinery as the item to be stolen. Naturally, the removal of quads and tractors from agricultural land is not easily accomplished and it soon becomes clear that it is highly, and very cleverly, organised. 

Although Superintendent Dennis Thornton is under considerable political pressure to put an end to it, he has so far, in spite of all his efforts, failed to make any progress. In a sense, therefore, it is almost a relief to the South Lincoln police when further, apparently unrelated, crimes occur to change the focus of their attention.

Unfortunately, the crimes happen to be the murder of two women and a young girl, whose bodies are found in a local canal. Yates finds himself having to work with – and even to be subordinate to – DI Michael Robinson, a man whom he both dislikes and mistrusts.

It appears to be simply by chance that Yates' attention is drawn to Jack Favergue's agricultural business. DC Ricky Macfadyen had put a stop to a street brawl in which Favergue had been involved and had become suspicious when he refused to bring any charges against his assailant.

Further investigation reveals that, although there is some farming taking place, it is only part of a more wide-ranging business that involves the repair and sale of agricultural vehicles, as well as the use of pantechnicons to clear the many septic tanks in the area. The police soon begin to believe that there are some suspicious characters working for Favergue, one of whom, Josh Marriot, the manager, has a police record.

The plot is of the slow reveal variety, but the reader's interest is always sustained as the police seek to establish what connection exists between the murders and the widespread theft of machinery and vehicles. Gradually, however, the police, forced to the conclusion that the Favergue business contains clues to the identity of the murderer, begin to pay more and more attention to what goes on there.

On the whole the plot is reasonably convincing, though it is hard to believe that Yates' wife, Katrin, could have made the kind of contribution she did merely by consulting the internet during the course of her criminology studies. It is, perhaps, significant that Yates is asked to provide a nutshell summary of the plot by Sgt Juliet Armstrong – it is as if the author feels that not all the questions have been answered and it is true that his summary of what has been taking place is not entirely convincing. Nevertheless, if the reader can accept this, the plot always holds the attention and the conclusion is dramatic.

The major characters – there are a lot of minor ones – are well-drawn, particularly the very acute Yates, his sergeant Juliet Armstrong, and Superintendent Thornton. Perhaps the most realistic of all is DI Robinson, always looking to appear in a favourable light and aware of the political consequences of any error.

Reviewed 11 May 2019 by Arnold Taylor