Jigsaw Man by Elena Forbes

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Reviewed by Kathleen Holly Marsh

Jigsaw Man is a typical crime novel following two murder investigations set in and around London in the present day. Detective Inspector Mark Tartaglia is the protagonist of the story, which opens with a violent murder in the hotel the DI had spent the evening at the evening before. Events occur that remove him as the main detective leading the investigation but he is reassigned to another case that involves an equally violent and intriguing murder. These two cases run alongside each other throughout the novel in alternating chapters.

The first thing to notice about this book is the onslaught of characters and backstories. Although they are well explained and well written with helpful reminders every now and then, the sheer number of characters involved collectively in both investigations is rather daunting and sometimes quite hard to remember. Personally I find making mental maps in my head helps to keep track of people but with two investigations running simultaneously I found it difficult to link the right characters to the right investigations.

I love a good page turner and Jigsaw Man didn’t let me down. With precise, uncomplicated language and constant suspense it was hard to put this book down. Possible solutions to the numerous problems and obstacles round every corner were constantly popping up in my head and my inner conspiracy theorist was having a field day. With so many characters in play and so many situations that could match up to others to create the missing puzzle pieces it was often impossible to even think about doing something other than read on.

I find it’s very easy for crime writers to write a story from only one point of view in order to keep the constant suspense going and to provide a magnified account of what the good guys go through in order to catch the bad guys. However Forbes doesn’t conform to this style of writing at all. The chapters of Jigsaw Man are constantly jumping from one case to another and aren’t just told from the DI’s point of view; a relative of one of the victims and a mystery man are the two other main protagonists. I found this gave a very round description of events with multiple sides of the same story being told, often in great detail.

Jigsaw Man contains all the aspects of a crime novel you would expect to find: stressful hours resulting in poor humour, a persistent media presence, frustrating dead ends, and answers in unexpected places. Tartaglia describes murder investigations as ‘rollercoasters’ at one point during the novel and the author holds true to this description with regards to the plot. With constant ups and downs and twists and turns Jigsaw Man takes you on a VIP tour of a murder investigation. Bizarre murders are often the most interesting to read about and Forbes does not disappoint.

Those looking for a good, solid crime novel that’s hard to put down and easy enough to sink into should look no further than Jigsaw Man.

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Kathleen Holly Marsh devours books on long bus journeys and doesn’t like to think how many times she’s missed her stop because of this.

Elena Forbes, Jigsaw Man (Quercus, London, 2015). 978-1849163392, 345pp., hardback.

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