In No Bodies, Environmental Health Officer (EHO) Kent Fisher is confronted by two crises. First, he is asked to find Colonel Witherington’s wife who disappeared nearly a year ago. Then he is confronted by an outbreak of e.coli which may be the result of infected animals at his animal sanctuary. Fisher must solve both problems while dealing with personal conflict and his continuing problem with his assistant, Gemma Dean.
Theme of the Book
The main motivator in No Bodies is revenge. But revenge always exacts a price. For Kent Fisher, the desire for revenge is directed toward his deceased father, MP William Fisher. This desire for revenge affects his relationships with his colleagues, his step-mother, and his partner Gemma. The sense of being hurt or damaged by others is present in all the characters and in their motivation.
What I Liked About the Story
An EHO is quite an unusual job for the protagonist of a crime novel. Neither a police officer nor a private detective, the EHO still has investigatory powers in cases of death or accident, especially those cases related to work safety or health concerns. This was quite eye-opening, particularly because ‘health and safety’ has a rather poor image in many British publications. This was quite an interesting and educational choice on the part of Mr. Crouch.
The serial killer aspect of the plot was well-developed and quite mysterious. It was only a quirk of fate that led Kent Fisher to begin his investigation, and it was quite some time before the idea of a serial killer came to the fore. Mr. Crouch was able to keep the identity of the killer a puzzle until the end of the novel, with several red herrings to confuse the investigator and the reader.
A more subtle aspect of the novel has to do with cost-cutting and bureaucracy within the council system. Without criticizing overtly, the author has made plain the difficulties for both citizens and officials that result when personnel and services are cut.
The best part of No Bodies is the development of the character of Kent Fisher. An unlikeable EHO, Kent is impulsive, angry, and stubborn. He jumps to conclusions with little evidence; he is angry with himself, with his deceased father, with his boss, and with the system in general. Fisher stubbornly refuses to accept help when offered and will not speak up about his emotions, especially regarding his partner, Gemma. Kent does have good points, however. He is devoted to his animal sanctuary, never gives up in his search for truth, and truly does care about the people in his life.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
There are a myriad of peripheral characters in the book – almost too many to keep track of. Some of these characters are better developed than others. Fisher’s friend Mike Turner, his partner Gemma Dean, and his step-mother Niahm are the best of the secondary characters. Others are stereotypes: Danni Frost the bureaucrat, Alice Hewitt the quintessential housekeeper and Miles Birchill the capitalist. Birchill is something of a puzzle: is he a heartless capitalist or does he care about Kent and Kent’s sanctuary? He plays a large part in Kent’s psyche but his role and his character are vague in book.
As mentioned, there are a number of red herrings to distract the reader. These tend to be more far-fetched than realistic suspects. The number of suspects does, however, underline the impulsiveness of Kent’s character.
Readers new to this series would do well to read the first volume, No Accidents, before reading No Bodies. The first of the Kent Fisher books will help explain some of the actions and attitudes in the second. The second book can certainly stand alone, but will be better appreciated with the background the first book provides.
On the whole, the book is well-written and readers looking for a different slant in detection will appreciate both No Accidents and No Bodies.