Russ Litten’s new detective novel Swear Down is a possible for Crime Book Reading Groups

swear-downThis book came to me through the book club Litro and is an example of a book I would not have bought myself but which I’m glad to have read. Swear Down tells the story of the patient detective work of newly promoted, and newly returned from holiday, Detective Sergeant Ndekwe who is confronted not only with a superior officer who fills his day with biscuits and coffee, counting the days to retirement, but by a case of murder by a single stab wound to which two men have confessed.  Since there was only one assailant and no weapon yet discovered, is he confronted with mutually exclusive confessions neither of which can be proved.           

Russ Litten uses the literary device of the Sergeant and the Inspector playing over the recordings of the two interviews as a means of telling the reader the back story.  Ndekwe listens patiently to tease out the story while the Inspector listens to it almost as background white noise.  The recorded interviews give place to the live interviews as Ndekwe pushed his questioning forward and questions others not under arrest for the crime.  Again, the two accounts of the young black man and the old and feckless white man diverge although they both drove out of London up to Hull to ‘escape’ from the consequences of the crime they both claim to have committed.

The connection that he eventually makes and the old man’s secret which eventually helps him solve the case is embargoed under the Reviewer’s Non-spoiler Convention but they make sense.  However, the book’s secondary roles, like Ndekwe’s wife, or among the police and the juvenile, criminal fraternity lack depth and, for my taste, could have been made more three-dimensional.  That said, this is a well-constructed and sufficiently page-turning book to be worth the read.  Score: 7 out of 10.

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