Alistair Minton’s mother, Carol, is worried. Alistair, a university student, has been out of touch for over a month. Giles, Alistair’s father, is in the middle of his campaign for a seat in Parliament and has no interest in finding Alistair at all.

Enter private investigator Sam Dyke. Hired to find the young man, Dyke soon finds himself involved in two murders, an attempted murder, political machinations, and secrets from the Minton family past that refuse to stay hidden.

Theme of the Book

More than just a murder mystery, The Lonely Grave examines the results when a dreadful secret is finally uncovered. It is a story of a truly dysfunctional family whose members put the end far ahead of the means.

What I Liked About the Story

Brexit politics. Money laundering and fraud. Murder, kidnapping, and attempted murder. Missing persons and racism. It sounds like too much for one book, doesn’t it? Every one of these elements fit perfectly into this well-crafted, well-written noir novel. Mr. Dixon never loses the plot; he weaves all the elements into a tight, fast-paced detective novel that could take its place alongside any Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammet.

Sam Dyke is the noir detective, cynical but with ideals and principles that keep him steady on his search for the truth. He is not a violent man, preferring to solve problems using his wit rather than his fists, but he is no stranger to violence, either. Although he is attractive to women, he can’t maintain a relationship. He’s Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon.

The Minton family is the portrait of dysfunction. Giles, the candidate for Parliament, is self-centered, cold, and scheming. His wife, Carol, suffers from depression, and is trapped in a loveless marriage with Alistair her only solace. Deborah, their daughter, combines the unattractive traits of her parents while Alistair seems lost and afraid of everything. Carol is the only character the reader will have any sympathy for. Reading about the Mintons is like watching a train wreck. It’s horrible but too fascinating to turn away from.

The secondary characters are equally unattractive. Tony Wolfe, Giles Minton’s agent, fancies himself a hard man but is actually ineffective. Jordan and Steve, known to Tony and Giles as Laurel and Hardy, fit their nicknames perfectly.

One of the elements of the novel that worked very well was the switch in points of view from that of Sam to that of Tony or Jordan. Though this seems as though it could be confusing, it works in that it lets the reader have a deeper look into the thought processes and decisions each makes.

The plot is not straightforward. It twists and turns and goes back into the past making for an exhilarating reading experience.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

There is very little to dislike about The Lonely Grave. I will say that the female characters are not as finely drawn as the males. I would have liked a better look into both Carol and Deborah Minton’s characters and their reasons for acting the way they did. A final summing up at the end of the novel wasn’t quite enough for me.

Final Say

I read a lot of mysteries from classic Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie to recent entries in the cozy mystery genre. Sam Dyke is now one of my favorite detectives and the Sam Dyke series one of the best available. Readers who appreciate clear, tightly-plotted mysteries with great characters will love Mr. Dixon’s books.

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