4 out of 4 stars
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Whatever It Takes by Heaton Wilson is a police procedural set in Ashbridge, a suburb of the British city of Manchester. When Jamie Castleton is found dead in an internet cafe, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Jane Birchfield has her hands full, as there's no clear evidence that points to the cause of his death, and the internet cafe belongs to a big company. The situation gets quickly complicated when Jamie's mother starts telling the police that her son was behaving in strange ways and seemed to be hiding something.
When Jamie's death is ruled a murder, Jane Birchfield is under pressure. She's working as the Acting Chief Superintendent because her boss, who's also her mentor, is dying, and she's having problems in her love life. The investigation seems to become increasingly complicated, as evidence indicates that Jamie was hacking the internet cafe's system to get into its owner's online gambling services.
This is the second DCI Jane Birchfield novel. You don't need to read the first one, Every Reason, as the two novels are about totally different cases. Some details from the second novel indicate that it's set about three years after the first one, and a lot of things changed in the protagonist's life during that time.
This novel is not an action-packed thriller, so if you're looking for that kind of story, this one is not for you. This is the story of a police investigation conducted through hard work in the search for evidence that might point to the culprit. There are some intense action moments, but mostly it's about looking into Jamie's life and activities and talking to persons of interest and possible witnesses.
An interesting choice by the author is in the parts of the novel that follow some of the persons of interest, so we get to know them a bit. Together with the police, readers can try to understand who of them might be the murderer or murderers. Those parts are cleverly written to avoid giving away too much too soon, so it takes time to understand if any of them has any secrets.
Character development is a strong point of this novel, especially concerning DCI Jane Birchfield and her team. They all have their own personalities that make them look like real people. Jane is particularly well developed, with strengths and weaknesses, everyday problems, inner struggles, and a complicated relationship with her partner Allan.
I have to say that I didn't really care about the problems between Jane and Allan, but it's a personal feeling. I'm OK with character developments that include their private lives, it's just that I'm not interested in personal drama, particularly in this type of novel. To be fair, Heaton Wilson developed that part of the story in a way that links her personal story with her professional story, so other readers might consider it another positive element.
The plot is tightly connected to Internet activities, including hacking, but you don't need to be an expert to understand them. Jane Birchfield and most of her team have a superficial knowledge of Internet technologies, so there's one technician who explains the complex bits in simple terms.
Jane Birchfield's team's investigation goes deep into the darkest sides of the Internet. Heaton Wilson doesn't go into details of criminal activities that use the Internet, but there are explicit mentions of the worst of the worst such as paedophile activities. In my opinion, this makes it suitable for adult readers.
The book contains a few errors, mostly punctuation errors that didn't detract from my enjoyment, as normally I wouldn't even notice them. My only complaint about Whatever It Takes is very subjective while its merits seem objective to me, so I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. If you like police procedurals that are cleverly constructed, I recommend both DCI Jane Birchfield novels. I recommend this one in particular if you're interested in the use and abuse of modern technologies.
Whatever It Takes
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